Coaches Return to Class in First Back to School Week

Assistant coaches Cory Bosworth, Brian DeStefano and Andrew Rueb are all smiles before heading to class (OAC). 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – While Harvard students began the spring semester Jan. 28, there were a few new faces in the audience Feb. 4-15, as several Crimson coaches participated in the first Back to School Week.

"Back to School Week reinforces our educational values within athletics and will further help develop the ability of our coaches to be great educators of our students," Nichols Family Director of Athletics Bob Scalise said.

The program, the idea of men's assistant tennis coach, Andrew Rueb '95, offered each coach an opportunity to attend class with his/her student-athletes and sit in on a lecture. The goal was to connect the coaches with the academic life on campus and reengage with students on the other side of the river, away from the athletic fields.

"Members of the Coach Development Advisory Committee have been working on initiatives to strengthen the academic-athletic interface." Senior Associate Director of Athletics Pat Henry added. "This particular concept was brought to the committee by Andrew (Rueb) and strongly endorsed. Back to School Week offers a structure for coaches to join their students in class and opens opportunities for relationship building and strengthening the academic-athletic interface at Harvard."

"I wanted to encourage other coaches to reach out and see what amazing faculty we have at Harvard," Rueb, who also attended graduate school at the Divinity School and worked as a proctor, teaching fellow and academic adviser at Harvard, said. "To be a successful coach here, it is vital to understand the academic life and pressures of our student-athletes.  As a recruiter, there is no better selling point than our unparalleled faculty."

Over the course of the program, 21 different coaches attended a total of 27 classes, including The Political Economy of Africa, Women, Gender and Sexuality: Education and Moneyball. It also gave coaches an opportunity to better understand the academic demands placed upon their student-athletes.

"Back to School Week afforded us the structure to connect with our players in their academic lives," head softball coach and co-chairwoman of the Coach Development Advisory Committee Jenny Allard said. "It was a great reminder of the wonderful academic opportunities at Harvard."

In addition to relating to their students, it allowed the coaches to support the professors, many of whom attend athletic events on campus, in their element – the classroom.

"What an energizing experience!" Harvard assistant men's basketball coach Yanni Hufnagel said after attending Introduction to African-American Studies. "Professor Gates was engaging and entertaining, and the material was intellectually stimulating. I only wish the class lasted more than 50 minutes!"

With the success of the inaugural event, Rueb hopes that it becomes an annual event, allowing the coaches to further establish bonds with their student-athletes and the esteemed academic faculty.

"It was great to meet the professors and make that connection, but, what was as important, if not more important, was that it reinforced to our student-athletes that we care about their academic lives," heavyweight crew head coach Liz O'Leary added.