After a 10 month hiatus, I finally feel a desire to start blogging again, primarily because I want to write about what I consider to be my most authentic teaching, which I do as a coach. When I got into teaching, I knew I wanted to be a coach. I love the lessons learned in sports, and how football, baseball, and ultimate are microcosms of “real life.”
After coaching for a few years, however, I’ve come to a realization – my role as a football and baseball coach is also where I get to be a teacher, free of all other expectations and bureaucracy. While my day job as an English teacher is wonderful, I am also saddled by the additional responsibilities that come with that – curriculum writing, state testing, and so on. To be honest, the politics involved in public education (both the small-scale and the large-scale) sometimes lead me to question whether I want to continue in this field.
Coaching, however, has given me a reason for optimism. When I coach, I experience the purest form of teaching I can imagine.
- Everything I teach my student-athletes is based on what I know they need to learn. While there may be an overarching guide to what I teach them (offensive philosophy, for example), I have the freedom to affirm their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses. I don’t feel that same freedom in the classroom.
- Effective coaching is based on proven educational strategies – direct instruction, guided practice, repetition, scaffolding authentic feedback. I instruct players what to do (on the board), show them how to do it (walk through), help them do it themselves repeatedly (drills), and give them feedback via film. Even grading players (which I do in football) is more authentic because it is only done when necessary to show players their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, grading in the classroom is a chore – I must have so many grades in the gradebook, whether they are informative of student learning or not. And it takes so long to grade that I can’t realistically give feedback as quickly as needed.
- Student-athletes are not a captive audience like other students – they choose to be there, and as a result, they are much more vested in learning what they need to in order to be the best that they can be. This means that they are more receptive to the feedback I give and are more willing to work on improving in those areas.
- The feedback I receive as a coach is wonderful – when my players don’t perform, it’s clear what I need to do better. When we watch film as coaches, the feedback I get is specific and helpful. While there may be criticism of my coaching and/or the players I coach, the goal is always very clear – to put our players in a position where they can be successful. The result is that I improve as a coach. This is feedback I do not receive in the classroom.
While there are plenty of other things that I love about coaching (raising up leaders, teaching boys what it means to be men, watching young people grow outside the classroom, etc.), I’ve realized that this is what I love most about it – the opportunity to simply teach.