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UPDATED: February 16, 2018 at 9:10 p.m.
When Cassandra M. Churnside, an assistant coach for the men's and women's water polo teams, agreed to attend classes with her athletes this week, she said she didn’t expect to spend two hours discussing 21st century hook-up culture with her players.
Churnside attended WOMGEN 1225: "Leaning in and Hooking Up," in addition to four statistics and psychology courses, as part of the Harvard Athletics Department’s Coach to Classroom program, which encourages coaches to attend class with their students at the beginning of the spring semester. Approximately 70 coaches participated this year, according to Assistant Director of Athletics Nathan T. Fry.
Men’s tennis Assistant Coach Andrew Y. Rueb ’95 said he started the program, formerly named Back to School Week, seven years ago after an informal poll showed that most coaches knew very little about the academic side of their athletes’ lives.
“I [showed coaches] some photos of some of the great Harvard professors…like Lisa Randall, or Helen Vendler,” Rueb said. “Our numbers in terms of recognizing these faces was not as strong as I think many people thought they would be.”
Rueb said Coach to Classroom was created as way to help coaches see their athletes “outside the lines of their playing fields.”
“We wanted to do a program that would help coaches really learn and sink their teeth into the academic life on campus” Rueb said.
Alexa J. Altchek ’18, a member of the women’s softball team, brought her softball assistant coach Jenny Rohn to AESTHINT 26: "Race, Gender, and Performance" along with a teammate. Altchek said she appreciated being able to show her coach the academic side of her life at Harvard.
“It was a great experience to have her in class to see what our lives are like on the other side of the river,” Altchek wrote in an email. “Our coaching staff cares a lot about our academic lives, and it was exciting to be able to share a part of it with them, even if only for one day!”
Churnside, who attended five classes this year, said Coach to Classroom gives her the opportunity to see her players learn in a different context.
“Hanging out with the kids, seeing how they take notes, they respond to the lecture, it was really interesting,” Churnside said.
Andrew C. Ball ’19, who attended ANE 120B: "Introduction to the Hebrew Bible" with Rueb, said Coach to Classroom gave him the opportunity to bridge the two sides of his life as a student-athlete.
“Afterwards it kind of gave me an opportunity to introduce my coach to the professor,” Ball said. “It provided me a way to get to know the professor on a more individual level.”
Churnside said one of the things that surprised her most was how eager her athletes were to bring the coaching staff to class.
“It’s almost like elementary school kids when they want to take their parents to back to school night and show you everything they’ve been working on,” Churnside said.
—Staff writer Madeleine R. Nakada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @maddynakada.
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