Friday, August 16, 2013

How Being a Coach Made Me a Better Teacher

I love sports. I have been involved in sports since I first started playing t-ball in the late 1970s. I played sports during every season of the year. Sometimes, I played on multiple teams in different sports during the same season. I honestly do not know how my parents did it. I love the competitive nature of sports as well. I love how it makes you focus on improving your skills. Along with having a pet, I believe every kid should be on one sport team during their lifetime!

Not only do I love playing, I love watching sports as well. I will watch any game that is on television. ESPN has made this easier for me since they have about six different channels with games on all of them! I would prefer to watch a game over a drama/comedy any day.

I am thrilled that I get to continue my love for sports since both of my kids are very athletic. I have enjoyed helping to coach their teams for the last six years. We do soccer in the Fall, basketball in the Winter and baseball for one, Soccer for the other in the Spring. On the occasional free weekend, I honestly do not know what to do with myself.

Now, how has working with these kids on the playing field improved me in the classroom? First, teaching the players a particular skill requires breaking down the movement into steps they can understand and replicate. It may be dribbling a soccer ball, completing a layup in basketball or turning a double play in baseball. Each of these have several smaller steps involved in them. Missing one step makes it difficult to compete at a high level.


This is exactly the approach I take while explaining a complicated topic in my math classes. When covering polynomials with my 8th graders, I simplify the steps to make sure that everyone can follow them. It is the best way I have found for students to succeed.

What do you do with a player that is not doing something correctly? What do you do with a player whose missing something with his or her fundamentals that it is keeping them from raising their play to the next level? Of course, you tell them: "That's too bad, I showed you. Now you are on your own!" No, you watch them complete the skill. As long as it takes to see what the problem is. Once we find it, I need to be specific with how they can improve. I just can not say, "You need to start making your jump shots." Instead, I need to inform them that their elbow is sticking out when they shoot. It really needs to be tucked in before you release the ball.


I know this is the one area I really need to improve on in my classroom. I typically wrote "Good job!" at the end of a writing assignment. There might be some suggestions from me about writing a better opening, but that was it. I have realized recently that I need to be specific with my feedback while in the classroom. I need to tell them that they are getting the equations wrong because they are confusing the Distributive Property, not just put an 80% at the top of the paper. I need to challenge my students and tell them that there are 5 incorrect problems on the paper, without showing them which ones they are!

In sports, you can not remove a position from the field if no one can play it well. In soccer, we can not remove our goal because we do not have a person good enough to play that position. In basketball, we can not ignore the fact that we do not have a good point guard. As a coach, I need to make sure I give extra attention to the players who want to play that position, but struggle initially. I need to be extremely patient while we work and work until we have a quality player at that position.


I apply that same concept in my classroom as well. I know I am not the smartest person in our building. I know there are a lot of teachers that are more creative, more organized and better with tech that I am. The one thing I can give my students is my time. I work with them during any free time we might have: free periods, lunch time, recess time and/or after school. My students know that I value hard work because they see me walking the walk everyday as I work right next to them. I see each class I teach as a team, and I am not happy until the entire team is working at their highest potential. My job is to constantly challenge them, push them, make them better. I have been known to push too far at times, but they see me pushing myself just as hard as I am pushing them!

I had a great mentor with coaching: my Dad. I realized one day that my Dad coached me in every sport but basketball between the ages of 8 and 15. I have modeled a lot of how I coach after what I saw my Dad do. People often commented that he got kids to play at such a high level. Those same kids did not play that well for other coaches. My Dad had a tremendous ability to get everyone playing well, even the not so athletic players. He never yelled. He never screamed. He just expected hard work and fair play. It took the adult me to realize my best teacher was my Dad!

I am not nearly the coach my Dad was, but I am improving. I enjoy being involved in coaching my kids because it has made me an improved teacher. But, the biggest win for me is I get to spend extra time with my kids. It's a win all around!

How has your hobbies/interests improved you as an educator? Please comment below!

No comments: