The Sport for Social Change Conference started out on a surprising note, as Drexel’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Bruiser Flint joined Director of Athletics Dr. Eric Zillmer for the first presentation of the day. Tackling the issue of athletes giving back, Dr. Zillmer and Coach Flint both expressed the wonderful opportunities working in athletics presents for each of them.
“I never feel like I have to work,” Dr. Zillmer expressed. “I feel like it’s a lifestyle. Its fun, exciting, people all over are interested in what you do. But the bigger reason is that you can change a person’s life.”
Building off of this idea, Coach Flint jumped into the issue at hand and discussed how he constantly tells his team to “reach back, to go forward – give back to the communities and help others.”
However, Coach Flint also expressed how the world is quick to think that athletes should be held to a higher standard because as athletes, they’re ‘privileged.’ “There are great opportunities in athletics because of the transparency," Flint said. "But every athlete cannot be held more accountable than any other person.”
Dr. Zillmer piggy-backed this thought by explaining that the beauty of athletics is the opportunity to step forward and be an ambassador for an issue, but if an athlete wants to be an athlete, “that should be okay too.”
Coach Flint briefly shifted the discussion to the importance of coaches giving back to the communities. Two wins away from being the winningest coach in Drexel’s history, Coach Flint understands that his position as a head basketball coach allows him to be involved in important causes, such as Coaches vs. Cancer. “The culture in athletics is to do things for change,” Coach Flint explained, “and Coaches vs. Cancer gives us the opportunity to create great moments in the lives of others.”
Dr. Zillmer noted that as athletics administrators, they feel innate responsibility to initiate community outreach; however, he also discussed the need to protect his student-athletes. There’s a time and a place for community outreach but some athletes simply don’t feel comfortable being in the public eye.
Dr. Zillmer and Coach Flint opened the presentation up for discussion and fielded questions from many of the participants in the audience. When asked why he recruits international student-athletes, Coach Flint explained that the beauty of an international student is the culture and knowledge they can bring to their teammates. Dr. Zillmer questioned aloud the role athletics plays for Drexel, and acknowledged that international students can provide unique education to the entire campus. With all of the questions presented to Coach Flint and Dr. Zillmer, it was clear that an entire conference could have been devoted to listening to these influential men speak. The duo provided an incredible look into how they handle their student-athletes and the demands of giving back to the community.
There’s a balance between getting their student-athletes involved and exploiting the students because they’re athletes, but important to remember that as Dr. Zillmer said, “We can’t be in a silo and exist in a vacuum. We tell our student-athletes they’re tomorrow’s leaders.”
Bruiser Flint Interview:
Dr. Eric Zillmer Interview:
Videos and interviews courtesy of Hayley Zedeck and Greg Monforte.
Recap written by Taryn Nichols