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CCU Atheneum: Foreign language professor Matthieu Chan Tsin played college football 10 years ago.
Foreign language professor Matthieu Chan Tsin played college football 10 years ago.

Faculty embrace new sports mentorship program

by Mona Prufer
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During his college days some 20 years ago, Matthieu Chan Tsin played football in the U.S., France and the U.K. It was a challenging time, and he never felt that the faculty understood the difficult balancing act of a student-athlete trying to make good grades while keeping up a grueling practice schedule.

So Chan Tsin, chair of CCU's Department of World Languages and Culture, signed up to be in the Faculty Associates Program for the second year. It's a pilot program that pairs a faculty member with a sport team; Chan Tsin's team is football.

“This is an opportunity for me to rectify something I had noticed some years ago,” says Chan Tsin, who hangs out with the team and helps with drills at practice. “It's important to give back to a sport that gave me so much, things like the importance of being a good team player and not just going off on your own.”

The Faculty Associates Program is an athletic program designed to engage CCU faculty with individual sport players by connecting volunteers with a team. Sharon Thompson, the faculty athletic representative, started the program after learning about a similar program on another campus. In its second year of existence, the program now has eight faculty members paired with seven teams. (Football, because of the size of the team with around 100 players, has two faculty associates.)

Dennis Edwards, professor of economics, and Chan Tsin are assigned to the football team. Colleen McGlone, who is also in her second year in the program and the only woman faculty associate, is assigned to women's basketball. Brian Bunton, assistant professor of chemistry/physics, has baseball; Greg Geer, assistant professor of educational leadership, has women's lacrosse; Paul Richardson, associate professor of biochemistry, has women's soccer; Don Rockey, associate professor of recreation and sport science, has men's basketball; and Yoav Wachsman, associate professor of economics, is assigned to women's volleyball.

Edwards, who “played football in the fourth grade for three weeks,” is a huge sports fan who has Cardinals World Series (2006) and LSU Championship (2007) banners hanging in his office. “It was described to me as a mentoring role,” says Edwards. “I am 39 and have had my share of mistakes along the way. If I can help anybody avoid some of my mistakes, then I want to do that. This combines my love of sports with my desire to make a difference.”

Volunteer faculty members serve as academic mentor, team supporter and as liaison to other faculty and administrators. They attend team practices, stand with the team on the sidelines at games and travel to at least one competition with the team.

Yoav Wachsman loves the sport of volleyball and was looking for a way to get more personally involved with students – the faculty associates program was perfect for him. He sits in on the team meeting at practices, and assists a bit at practice when needed.

“At first the team didn't know what to do with me,” says Wachsman, who traveled on the bus with the 12 volleyball players to Greenville for an invitational meet. “Now they ask me when I am coming to practice. They know I am here for them.”

On the recent trip, Wachsman was struck by the intensity of the players' roller coaster emotions – very elated when winning, very down when losing. “It is very intense even for me now,” he says. “It is heartbreaking when they lose. I tell them to play with passion, not fear.” The program, he says, is all about supporting the students.

“The University wants to show athletes there's someone there to support them on a personal basis,” he says. “It's not just about winning and losing. It's about being successful.”

Colleen McGlone sees real value in a program that gives student-athletes a “more neutral” person to talk to who is not a coach or a professor in their field. “We are not there to change grades or drop classes,” she says. “We are there to strengthen the bond between the student and the faculty.”

McGlone, who would like to see more female faculty volunteers, says she has talked with student players about everything from stress management to study habits to what happens after graduation. “I would love to see all sports covered,” she says. “And I would like to see people who are not into athletics get involved to gain that perspective.”

Paul Richardson, who is assigned to women's soccer, brings his two little girls to the home games.

“I was looking for some ways to be more involved with my daughters,” says Richardson. “I don't need any more committees to serve on, but this seemed to be a good way to be involved at work and at the same time spend quality time with my girls. I also wanted to learn more about athletics.”

Ella, 3, and Caroline, 6, love going to the games and have even helped lead cheers toward the end of a game. They've been to four or five home games so far, but Richardson, who was a varsity athlete on the college swimming team, hopes watching women's soccer will positively impact his children.

“These (soccer) girls could be an inspiration for my girls,” says Richardson, who so far has not noticed any athletic tendencies in his young children, though the older one takes ballet. “We like for them to have different experiences, and this has been a positive one.”


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