The amount of travel that goes into all collegiate sports is quite a lot for any 18 to 21-year-old student to endure, but there are few sports that must travel more than baseball.
This past week alone, the Appalachian State baseball team had an away game against Gardner-Webb, directly followed by a three-game series against Southern Alabama, in Southern Alabama. The team left March 27, and won’t be back in the state until Easter Sunday, April 1.
Appalachian State Head Baseball Coach, Kermit Smith, believes that all this traveling presents an opportunity to have a vastly positive effect on the players.
“It’s a great opportunity to represent a great university and go out and play to the best of your ability athletically,” said Smith. “It can go through so many other channels that are not just the product you’re putting on the field. You also have the representation that the players show off of the field,” Smith added.
Smith believes that the way the team presents themselves off the field is incredibly important for the team brand and image, as well as teaching the players good moral conduct. This type of conduct includes: What the player attire off the field is, the types of things the players talk about to one another while on the road, their overall interactions with the locals of the towns they visit, and generally how they portray themselves while out of town. Smith makes sure the players know that it’s not just their individual selves they are representing, but the university as a whole.
It is also extremely important that the team keep up with their school work while on the road. Appalachian State Pitcher, Luke Watts, doesn’t have any problem with keeping up with all his school work, despite spending so much of his of time on the road.
“We have a lot of down time in the hotel, so as long as you’re proactive about it and diligent about keeping up with it, then there is definitely enough time to get it done,” said Watts.
This type of demeanor is something that Smith is serious about when it comes to his team. Smith also chooses to implement study hall sessions while the team is on the road and believes that academics are extremely important to the program. The players’ “classrooms” are often-times inside of hotel lobbies, which can be a difficult place to learn, but the initiative the team takes helps them stay focused on school as well as their sport.
While Smith does a fantastic job of making sure the players are staying on top of their work, Appalachian State also offers academic services and counselors for all the student athletes. These offices are filled with advisors that help players manage their schooling while traveling. Appalachian State’s Academic Services for Student Athletes Director, Stacy Sears, encourages players to use all the free services the school has to offer when they can.
“We have counseling center services, writing center services, tutoring and these are all things that can benefit our student athletes,” said Sears. “Our student athletes are so busy between their weights, practices and meetings with coaches that we really want to make sure they budget time for these other services.”
Smith believes the players on his team are presented with a great opportunity to play at an institution like Appalachian State and has put them in a great position for success both on and off the field.