Cincinnati Red, UNC Bear

Brandon Bailey has worn a lot of baseball jerseys — he’s pitched for Broomfield (Colorado) High School, Gonzaga University, a half-dozen minor league teams associated with the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros, and now the Cincinnati Reds.

He’s never worn UNC’s blue and gold.

But he’s still a proud Bear.

He completed his undergraduate degree after being drafted by the A’s in college, and now, while pitching for the Reds, is a student in UNC’s Extended Campus’s Sport Coaching master’s program. Here’s a piece of his story, as told by him. 

Ever since I had a Tommy John surgery at the age of 17, I’ve had a unique perspective that most young athletes don’t have, which is this sport that I’m playing right now, it’s going to end one day. I’m not going to be able to do this forever. 

I started thinking about all the professional baseball players that go into coaching when they’re done, and while it’s awesome from an individual perspective that they were extremely talented athletes and played at a high level professionally, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a good coach. I wanted something on my resume that spoke to my desire for continued learning.

If I’m going to do something, I want to be the best I can possibly be at it and have the humility to know that there’s a lot more that goes into being a good coach than just understanding the game and being a good athlete. I wanted to expand my knowledge on communication skills, how to motivate athletes, how to understand long-term athletic development principles, and injury prevention, all of those things that I might not have been as well-versed in. That’s kind of what gravitated me toward a master’s in Sport Coaching. UNC has one of the best sport management departments in the country, and they’re one of the unique schools that does offer sports coaching as a focus.

My favorite class was long-term athlete development. That course was really eye-opening for me because of my experience as a young athlete. Sometimes in youth development, we can get lost in the nature of wanting to focus all of our efforts toward winning. That discourages athletes from failing, and failure is honestly probably one of the best things that you can do because that’s how you learn. 

I took a course called Bridge Theory with Professor Scott Douglas, and some of the projects we did were a lot of fun. One of them was putting together a 12-month training program for a hypothetical sports team of your choice. 

I’m also really looking forward to a course focused on injury prevention that I’ll take next spring, just because I think that’ll probably offer a lot of insight and value for coaches on how to treat injuries in real time, but then also some tips and techniques that can probably help athletes stay healthy and stay on the field.

If you have another career you’re already fully engaged in, UNC’s Extended Campus is a great opportunity to be able to somewhat go at your own pace. Most of the time the assignments are due on Sunday, so you have a full week to just kind of choose days when you want to get them all done, which is extremely helpful. 

If you were to ask me what my favorite animal is, I’d say it’s a bear. And in my Native American culture and my family heritage, my native name is Nita’ Iskanno’si, which means little bear. 

I definitely feel like I have some sort of connection to the university just through this online experience. I have pride when people ask me, “Where are you getting your master’s from?” To say the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, there’s something about my home state, there’s something about Colorado, there’s something about UNC. It’s a really great feeling to be a Bear and to hopefully one day have a master’s in Sport Coaching from UNC on my resume.

—Brandon Bailey as told to Rebecca OBrien