This week, The Chronicle wanted to put the spotlight on a program here in Emanuel County that has, for years, maintained a standard of excellence that is nearly unmatched. That program is ECI’s athletics! While the efforts of the coaches, administrators, and student-athletes shouldn’t and cannot be overlooked, another part of any given school’s athletics program is its athletic director, or “AD,” for short. These ADs work behind the scenes in many ways, so their contributions aren’t always noticed. The Chronicle reached out to the man working behind ECI’s athletic scenes, AD Manzie Broxton.
Broxton, who is 31-years-old, is a native of Washington County, and is currently in his ninth year of being involved in education and his third as an administrator for the Emanuel County Board of Education. Broxton received his master’s in middle grade education from Georgia Southern University as well has his master’s in educational leadership from GSU. Broxton also earned his specialist in educational leadership from Georgia College & State University as well as well as his specialist in teacher leadership from Georgia College & State University. Broxton isn’t stopping there, though, as he is also pursuing his doctorate in curriculum construction from Georgia College & State University. When asked what his next goal would be to pursue, Broxton said, “I hope to hold an essential office position one day.”
Before becoming an athletic director for ECI, Broxton taught sixth grade math in middle school for six years. During this time, Broxton also coached various sports such as soccer, basketball, and cross country. It is Broxton’s uncanny ability to connect to his students and adapt his coaching philosophy to almost any sport that he’s involved in which are the reasons he currently fulfills his role as an athletic director.
Broxton feels that if there is any room for improvement for the ECI athletic’s program, it is that the athletic skillset of his student-athletes “is spread too thin.” Because most of the student-athletes are involved with more than one sport, Broxton would like to see his student-athletes hone a skillset that could be better balanced between all sports, not just honed in on one in particular.
A common concern that comes along with student-athletes participating in multiple sports is their safety. As you begin to involve different sports into your regular routine, the strain on the body increases and so, too, does the risk of injury. How is this issue approached, then, when you want to place a focal point on further developing your students to employ a more balanced skillset that can apply to a multitude of sports? The answer comes in the form of having an excellent athletic training staff and state-of-the-art athletic equipment. Broxton says of the safety measures in place, “With our concussion protocol, we follow TSSAA guidelines. We also have an athletic trainer, Christy Quinn, who pretty much handles that in cooperation with the coaches. If there is any injury or head injury, she utilizes the concussion protocol, and she’s very thorough and very knowledgable. She attends every home game for every sport, whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, softball. She is also available every day after school for one-on-one training for those who wish to develop that way. If she’s not there, there will be another trainer available.”
He goes on to say he feels as though for a rural school, the equipment ECI uses is very good, but as with anything in life, it can always be improved. He said, “We try to make sure our equipment is as up-to-date as possible. Our board of education does a great job of providing us with resources for our student-athletes.”
“Student-athlete” is a term that means both “student” and “athlete,” that much is clear. However, it’s the “student” portion of the term, Broxton says, that is the most important. Because most of the coaches at ECI also teach academic subjects, it’s much easier to hold each student accountable in the classroom as well as on the field. Broxton expands on this in saying, “The first part of being a student-athlete is that you’re a student first, so that means the academics have to come first.” Without the academics taken care of, students are not allowed to participate in the athletic’s program either, so the student understands that they have to go to class and get their work done. Broxton also says of the school’s teachers, “Our teachers do a great job of working with our student-athletes who may be struggling in the classroom by coming in early in the morning and putting aside time for tutoring or staying after school hours to tutor.” Everyone has a hand in ensuring the success and progression of the student-athletes, and this speaks to the level of dedication and interest the faculty at ECI exhibits toward their students.
As for the minimal academic eligibility for a student-athlete to be able to participate in the athletic’s program, Broxton detailed it as such, “Initially, everyone is eligible entering their ninth grade. Afterward, they are re-evaluated in January in that they have to be passing at least three of their four classes. They are then further re-examined going into their 10th grade year, whereas they must be passing six out of eight classes.” These methods, combined with the attentiveness and diligence on the part of the faculty, has allowed for ECI to boast a graduation rate of roughly “98-99 percent!”
Broxton goes on to stay in regards to the mission of the athletic’s program, “The main thing that we want [students] to take away from these opportunities is that they always allow themselves to be coachable because in life, we will always meet people who want to teach us and try to make us better.” He continues, “You have to put yourself in a position where you’re willing to listen to them and also apply what they are saying in an effort to improve yourself.” Just as in their respective sports, teamwork will also play an integral role in their pursuits in life afterward—not only to work together but also respect each other’s differences and respect what each person offers. To be able to collaborate with others and help one another is not only important in a ballgame, but also everywhere else in life, and it is these reasons as to why the student-athletics program is so important for the continued progression of the young men and women at Emanuel County Institute.
ECI doesn’t stop at just the students and their participation within the athletics program… They also make an effort to involve the parents through their “Bulldog Boosters” initiative. The coaching staff at ECI also makes concerted efforts to communicate with the parents. The coaches make sure that they get input from the parents in regard to what they want the parents to work on with their child and what they would like to see the child improve on. This program also seeks input from the parents on how to improve the program itself.
Broxton also mentioned some other programs he would like to see in his athletics program. Those programs are wrestling and girls’ flag football. Broxton mentions that, “While we don’t expect to have these programs incorporated into the athletics curriculum during the 2021-2022 year, we hope to have them by the 2022-2023 year.” He expands on the idea of a girls’ flag football team by saying, “We also have two of our football coaches who say they are willing to coach the girls’ flag football team.”
Broxton says in regard to what they have to overcome and how it affects the future potential of the wrestling program is “the cost of start-up as far as securing the mats and equipment and other things of that nature as well as the student participation.” Student participation is, indeed, an issue, when there are still a great number of students attending classes online due to the pandemic. This issue will be prevalent until such a time that there is no longer a threat of the virus and all the students can attend physical classes as prior to the widespread illness. Thus, the focus right now is on the inclusion of the girls’ flag football because there are not as many outstanding issues that would prohibit the start-up.
Broxton finished the interview by detailing what inspired him to take up a career in education. However, when asked why he chose this as a career, the word “career,” to him, isn’t as tantamount to his actual reason to be working in an educational capacity as you might think. Broxton’s response to the word “career” was such that, “I don’t think ‘career’ is the right word. At the end of the day it’s all about education. The main thing for me is that I am an educator, regardless of my title or education. I just want to educate kids and make an impact on their lives.”
Although Broxton comes from a family of educators, interestingly enough, he says he didn’t initially want to be one. “My original goal was to become a police officer, but I have a love for children. When I went to school, I went directly into education.” Broxton does acknowledge his family as inspirations to him, even if this wasn’t his initial goal in life. He references his father, with whom he shares the same name, Manzie Broxton, as well as his late mother, Brenda Broxton, who was also an educator. His aunts and uncles were also educators, and it was for these reasons Broxton didn’t initially want to follow the same path; however, it’s deeply embedded in him, in his blood, in his bones, in his DNA. It seems, at times, we are born into a life all but our own.
We here at The Chronicle would like to take this opportunity to thank Manzie Broxton for giving us his time for his and taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in this interview. We know you will continue to uphold a standard of excellence at ECI. We wish not only you the very best going forward but also to your students and your faculty.