I had the pleasure this past week to be a "faculty coach" for the UNC Charlotte football team, which is in its first year of existence. I had a great time, as did my family, and so I can't thank Head Coach Brad Lambert and Coach Napoleon Sykes enough.
On Tuesday afternoon I got a tour of the football facilities, then sat in for a bit of Coach Sykes' linebacker meeting. I know football pretty well, but it felt very much like sitting in on an advanced foreign language--he talked rapidly while writing and erasing constantly on a whiteboard. And the players obviously understood him. From there he walked me over to practice, where I actually addressed the team very briefly.
I told them we had opposite jobs. My job involved stressing students out with work, and their job involved having a good game to make students foret me. I am no Vince Lombardi, but hey.
The next event was Friday, where my son and I met the team to watch a movie at the Student Union. From there we walked to dinner, where the rest of my family met us. We had a really nice time, and my 5 year old daughter seemed to take to Coach Lambert, intent on goofing around with him. We were also joined by the other faculty coach, Professor Valentina Cecchi, who is in Electrical Engineering, and her husband. They sat with us with at the game too.
It was capped off today, where my son and I went to the game and had a pass to walk around on the sidelines before it started.
Both teams played really well, but we lost to Wesley College, 35-28.
The purpose of the faculty coach program is to foster more connection between the academic and sports parts of the campus, because there is often antagonism (and often for very good reason). I even chatted with Coach Lambert about the challenges of starting a team right when the Penn State and UNC Chapel Hill controversies are fresh. Expectations of transparency are high, which is all to the good. From my own limited angle, though, time after time this week I found myself talking to very personable and enthusiastic people who gave off no air of machismo, arrogance, or anything else.
My colleague Anita Blanchard in Psychology had a similar positive experience.