For the Radford Women’s Basketball team, big changes came fast and furious over the summer and if first year Head Coach Mike McGuire, who was one of those big alterations, has his way the changes will continue all season long.
When McGuire left his previous coaching position at the University of Richmond, he brought a few things along with him including the idea of having a faculty member sit on the bench with the team during home games.
“It was a program we did there and I was given the responsibility there as an assistant coach and loved it. I did it all five years and just had tremendous feedback from the faculty. I just loved the idea and I said that if I ever had the chance to be a head coach I was going to use that idea,” McGuire said.
Only two games in to this young basketball season and it seems to have become a hit here at RU as Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach Brett Self says he has gotten promising feedback from the faculty members as he has taken on the responsibility McGuire once had in finding the temporary coach for the games.
“I think it is a great idea. I reached out to the faculty members through phone calls and emails and am very, very pleased with the response back. People already want to do it more than one time. Its great to see how they have grabbed on and are wanting to be apart of this program,” Self said.
The concept of this program is to have a faculty member who maybe the student athletes have for a class or just a person who really enjoys athletic events become immersed in the team for the day and really get an inside look at things. That person would attend practice the day before the game, the pregame activities the day of the game, come in to the locker room before the game and during halftime and then watch the game from the best seat in the arena. While McGuire understands faculty members are busy and may not be able to make it to everything offered the main thing is they are on the bench come game time.
Dr. Twange Kasoma, Assistant Professor, was the first faculty member to try out the program, as the team took on Emory and Henry College in their home opener. Although Kasoma never played basketball the experience was an interesting one since she taught at E&H for five years before coming here to RU.
“It was such a sweet victory,” said Kasoma. “Surprisingly, I felt really at home and within no time my cheerleading mojo kicked in. I was so bent on seeing our team win. This was actually the first game I’ve attended since joining Radford and what a game. I look forward to attending more.”
Coach McGuire was very pleased and excited with how things went in the trial run of the program with Kasoma.
“She was really in to it. We were talking about the home opener and all that and she got all fired up in the locker room like she was ready to go. It was good, she really seemed to have a good time,” McGuire said with a grin.
As for picking a staff member to participate for a game that seems to be the hardest part right now. The coaches asked the ladies to nominate two professors that they would like to have join the team for the day and so once the emails were sent the scheduling began. Self says the hardest part is keeping all the game days straight.
“I just send them our home dates and tell them to pick a few that they would like to attend but with a lot of our games over Christmas break its kind of crazy trying to make sure there are not multiple people trying to attend one game,” Self said.
This is the first program of this kind for Radford Athletics and it is quite obvious that the coaches could not be happier about this opportunity but they admit it is odd to look around the locker room and see someone who is not a player or staff member there.
“We will be talking in the locker room and glance over and be like who is that. It’s a little different but it’s good! You know, we want to have a program where its not just about the players and the coaches but about everybody instead,” McGuire said.
As for the players, it seems it will take a little getting used to seeing their professor not only in class but in their pregame huddle as well. McGuire said that they seemed a bit confused as to why they were doing this but once the goal was explained they seemed to understand.
That goal McGuire is speaking of is unification. The Head Coach says he wants the faculty members to see what the student athletes do everyday but he also wants the athletes to be able to connect with their professors because they do rely on them when they miss class because of games. McGuire also thinks it is important for the faculty members and coaches to come together and help the athletes as one because they need to see support from all angles. Kasoma and Self would agree with that statement.
“It’s about bringing everyone together to where there is an understanding of what we do and what the faculty and staff do because we are all representing this institution. It’s a good thing that I hope we can do more of,” McGuire said.
“It is going to help connect the teacher-student, how they see different things. Our students go to class and see how the teachers do things but the professor can get some insight in to how we do our thing for game preparation and that kind of stuff. We hope it will build that bond between the faculty and students and I know our students who selected the first guest coach were happy to see her outside of the classroom and see that she was passionate about basketball,” Self said.
“The faculty member gets to see the players in a whole new light. The program also provides a one-on-one communication channel between the coaches and the faculty,” Kasoma said. “I feel that it is such a neat idea to not only connect with the players outside the classroom, but also as a morale booster.”
Another hope to come out of this program would be to see more student fans in the stands on game day. McGuire hopes that by professors and the athletes talking up the games, the Dedmon center will spring to life every time there is a home game for men’ or women’s.
“I think we have to bridge the gap. The size of our arena could be a nice home-court advantage. There is no reason why we couldn’t have a couple thousand students down here for a couple of hours throughout the semester,” McGuire said.
That goal of having students pouring over the bridge that separates Dedmon from campus may soon be possible if faculty members keep attending games and then spreading the word. While it is the basketball staffs goal to have a faculty member at every home game, they realize that the idea was developed a little late for this season and hopes that by next season faculty are excited and looking forward to basketball season so that they can participate. The team will already have one game covered next year as Kasoma is already planning on coming back for game two. The future is bright for the faculty guest coach program and who knows, if this program keeps expanding maybe a student or two will make it on to the bench for game day.