“Length times width, divided by the number of players ...
” Alicia Sevilla, math professor and coach of the week, attends
a practice before the Juniata game. Photo by Micheal Wilson
"Good job Saturday, Shawn, says
Michelle Schmidt, assistant professor of psychology, to a
large young man with downcast eyes in the HUB. Thanks,
Professor, he answers softly.
It was a tough loss, explains Michelle, who was
Coach of the Week for the September 28 game against Widener
University (final score: 27-20).
At a Big 10 university, the distance between
academics and athletics is all but unbridgeable. (For anyone
who went to Ohio State in the Woody Hayes era, its hard
to believe he knew the university had an academic program.)
The entente is a lot more cordiale at Moravian, where the
game is still a game and football players are still students.
is not the only college to stress the connection between academics
and athletics. But few put it into practice with quite the
cheerful spirit of the Coach of the Week program.
Coach of the Week is adapted from an NCAA
program at Division I schools that tries to improve relations
between academics and athletics.
Even at a Big 10 school, after all, not every
player is headed for a professional sports career.
At Moravian, the Coach of the Week does not
draw game plans in chalk on a blackboard nor devise the drills
that help the Greyhounds become a more limber, powerful, or
But simply by attending practice and being visible on the
sidelines at the game, the experience is enlightening for
both faculty and players. We all see our students and
professional coaching staff in a new light, says Dana
Dunn, professor of psychology.
It helps our kids get on a more comfortable level with
the faculty, says Ron Cardinal, who acquired a new title
this year, life skills/academic coordinator, in addition to
his regular one as assistant football and softball coach.
To approach a faculty member . . . is intimidating for
them. This program helps break that [barrier] down.
Some coaches get really involved. Michelle
Schmidt was at practice one afternoon when Cardinal set her
up as the target of an agility drill. Big, burly
football players thundered up to dont-fire-until-you-see-the-whites-of-their-eyes
range before shearing off to one side or the other of Michelle,
who is short and slight and would have ended up as kindling
if one had missed his feint.
I went in not knowing a huge amount about football,
confesses Michelle, who attended Drew University and George
Mason University in Virginianeither a great football
school. My husband is a [Washington] Redskins fan, and
Ill sit and watch a game with him occasionally.
But there she was, offering comforting words
to Shawn Nelson. A football player in one of my classes
. . . thanked me for being there at all the practices and
the game, she marvels. The players told me We
need you there for inspirationor whatever it is
The professors, too, learn from the coaching experience. Alicia
Sevilla, professor of mathematics and chair of the department,
was able to attend only one practice during her week, but
she availed herself of a helper: her son, Alex Queen, an eighth-grader
at Nitschmann Middle School in Bethlehem, who plays right
tackle on his school team. He explains it to me,
The first time he was Coach of the Week,
Chris Jones, assistant professor of biology, told the team:
Everyone in this room knows more about football than
I ever will.
In that case, why should he want to be Coach
of the Week? I yell well, he grins. Then he explains:
Ive had a number of football players in my classes,
and I thought it was important to get out and see what they
actually go through. Its such a big part of their lives.
I wish we as faculty could inspire such single-mindedness.
Ive learned a ton from it, Michelle says.
Ive got incredible respect for the coaches and
players, for the com-mitment they bring to what they do.
As these professors confirm, the faculty
coach comes to understand how much time and energy is consumed
by the daily practices. And the players learn that professors
are human and approachable.
In the meantime, Coach of the Week allows
Ron Cardinal to meet faculty on his own ground so that, when
a student athlete has a problem, he can meet the faculty on
their turf. I made it a point to go and meet the people
I knew I needed to meet, he says: tutors at the Writing
Center, Ron Kline of the Counseling Center, Lori Roth in Learning
Services. And hes not reticent about telling a student
with an attendance problem: Get your fanny to class.
(Though he probably doesnt say fanny.)
I definitely believe in keeping this
academic and athletic link going, Michelle says. Its
about making a connection that otherwise wouldnt be
Coach of the Week program bridges athletics and
academics in Moravian football.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Anna Quindlen is Cohen
Arts & Lectures speaker at Moravian.
Up & Away!
A student gets a ride in a hot-air balloon
for "Morning Star" at Christmas Vespers
of faculty, staff, students.