When coaches get benched – Part 3 Trying to stay positive in difficult and trying times

Published 12:36 am Monday, April 13, 2020

With today’s third and final installment of ‘When coaches get benched’, Coach Ryan Presnell of the Elizabethton Cyclone baseball team steps up to the plate to share his thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 from a sports and educational perspective.
Presnell’s approach to the game as well as life, in general, make him a much-admired coach and educator who spends as much time teaching his students to be role models in life as he does baseball or Criminal Justice.
He hasn’t allowed the school moving from the classroom to the living room to slow him down in how he provides instruction to his classes.
“I generally spend four to six hours a day in front of a computer, either doing lesson plans, grading assignments or interacting with students online,” Presnell said. “I teach some college courses online so this environment is not new to me.
“However, it isn’t what we’re used to and it’s taking a lot of work to deliver quality instruction, which I believe the EHS faculty is absolutely doing. My participation rate in my classes is approaching 90%, which honestly is better than if we were meeting regularly.
“While this isn’t ideal, it’s what we have and Cyclone Pride perseveres!”
One thing that Presnell has found beneficial is using others to join in collaboration to make sure that lessons are not mundane and that students are elevating their learning experience.
“Right now, we are studying critical incident response and I am working with a colleague from Johnson County to deliver this instruction,” stated Presnell. “Next week, the Johnson County instructor, Emily Harrison, will take the lead teaching about some of her expertise, criminal defense law.
“We are conducting real-life case studies and using Zoom to meet with local practitioners. Later this week, we will be meeting with Carter County’s SWAT Team Commander to discuss SWAT’s role in critical incident response.
“We’re trying to make this instruction as meaningful as possible without breaking the educational “bank” we’ve built up with our students over the years. They’ve come to expect this type of work from us.”
As is the case with other educators, Presnell is relying on available technology to deliver his lessons.
“We are loving Zoom. It allows me to deliver instruction and interact with the kids. They also get to interact with each other,” added Presnell.
“Sometimes we get on each other’s nerves, but right now we would do anything just to have one class together. Zoom helps us to bridge that gap.”
Presnell feels strongly that in a time that no educator, coach, or parent has ever experienced that it is important for teachers and parents to work hand in hand to ensure that each student is continuing to grow and learn through each day of social distancing.

“We want to just work hand in hand with them and they need to try to support us as much as possible,” Presnell said. “Just know that no teacher or coach wants this to be any harder on your family than it already is.

“If something we are asking for is creating tension or a negative environment in your home, please reach out to us. This is our first time through this, too. Maybe your feedback will allow us to help not only you but the rest of the class or team.”

Even though Presnell instructs, he has searched for valuable lessons in how the COVID-19 has transformed education and coaching as most have been accustomed to.

“I don’t know just yet all the lessons,” Presnell commented. “We haven’t yet found any one thing that could change how we do things when we return.
“The technology piece has been nice and we kind of set some things in motion back in the fall with the baseball program that has made what we have done so far halfway worth our time but I don’t know if we would ever conduct business like this again.
“But I’m always looking for that edge, so maybe we will find something before it’s all said and done. For the next 10 years, I will never have to say “play like it could end anytime…” These kids will all have experienced it.”
Presnell has also made time from a coaching perspective to see how he could best utilize his time away from the school and field setting to help improve his team should they get an opportunity to play in 2020.
“I’ve found lots of ways for our guys to get better individually. While baseball is a team sport, a lot of the sport is individual-based,” Presnell said.
“I’ve also taken this opportunity to really study our performance not only this year but in year’s past. We have a very good grip on who we are and what we will need to do if we get back to work this season.
“If not, God has a plan and I am learning to trust Him more and more every day.”

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