So often in education, which includes all school-sponsored activities such as baseball, if an adult makes a poor decision, the students or athletes suffer the consequences of that decision.
For instance, in the early 1990’s I was part of an administrative team working to merge a boys’ and girls’ independent schools. Responsible for activities that would help the students get to know each other better, I created events for the students. On a regular schedule, pizza parties were held for the students from the same class. I established an account with a local pizza company, and all went well until for one gathering of about 150 teenagers, I ordered thin crust pizza. Bad move! If you do not know it, thin crust is not as filling as regular crust, so many students went away hungry.
This is a mundane example of how an administrator’s decision can affect students, but it serves as an example. We educators are responsible for so many parts of our students’ lives, and we must, at times, walk a tightrope between too much or too little. As one of my coaching mentors, Bob Moore, told me, “There is a six-inch difference between a pat on the back and a kick in the butt.”
All of this brings me to Coach Elliott Avent, the baseball coach of North Carolina State University. If you are not aware of the team’s phenomenal win streak against heavy odds, find it on Google. However, the wins of the team do not interest me here, but Coach Avent’s words following his team’s removal from the CWS by the NCAA because of COVID protocol does.
According to multiple news outlets, when Coach Avent was asked if he encouraged or required his players to be vaccinated, he answered, “My job is to teach them baseball, make sure they get an education and keep them on the right track forward, but I don’t try to indoctrinate my kids with my values or my opinions,” he said. “Obviously we talk about a lot of things, but these are young men that can make their own decisions and that’s what they did.”
Any educator worth his or her salt knows that we teach our students more than baseball or physics or Beowulf. That is one of the many beautiful and noble aspects of teaching. We teach our students how to analyze, to consider, to evaluate, then to come to an independent conclusion. A good teacher does not indoctrinate, but a good teacher does instruct and encourage students to be aware of his or her world. If Coach Avent believes that part of his job is to “make sure they [his players] get an education,” then he must view himself as an educator, or one who educates.
When asked if he was vaccinated, Coach Avent responded, ““I’m not going to talk about that,” Avent said. “If you want to talk baseball, we can talk baseball. If you want to talk politics or stuff like that, you can go talk to my head of sports medicine, Rob Murphy.”
It appears that Coach Avent has not been aware or accepting of the horrible epidemic the world and we have been struggling with. Apparently he has just been concerned with baseball for the past season, and to his credit, he has performed well as a coach. However, he has failed his players in the most important role: Mentor! He has failed his players by not being responsible for their welfare as it pertains to the wider world, which unfortunately entered his baseball bubble and burst it.
Shame on Coach Avent!