Sporting pedagogy: Being a teacher/coach

Ira Cross Jr

I am an elementary educator working in Columbus, Ohio in the US. I have a passion for innovation in education and also for collaboration with teachers, parents, and most importantly students. Working together is the best way to achieve anything, especially in education

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Originally published 2nd May 2016. Originally published 2nd May 2016.

The school day is done. The classroom is empty. The various after-school duties are finished. Now time to focus on those ungraded papers, the lesson for tomorrow, the emails to send to parents about their children, the emails to send to colleagues about meetings in the week, and go home. However, the day is far from done. Pack up all of your things, head to the locker room, change into that athletic gear, and get ready for practice.

"A coach has the ability to develop a student on a much different level than a teacher."

Being a teacher is hard, rewarding work. Being a sports coach is hard, rewarding work. Combining the two is a responsibility that few can handle for very long. A teacher/coach is much like a student/athlete. They must both focus on school and their sport. They must both focus on getting better, on and off the field. They are both leaders in their school.

As a teacher/coach, the responsibility is obviously much greater than a student/athlete because they are moulding the skill of others around them. A coach has the ability to develop a student on a much different level than a teacher. They see the student/athlete in something that is outside of academics and most likely in something that the student/athlete has some passion for doing. A coach can be that push, or that destructive force, to a student/athlete. This, above all of other tasks, is the most important.

I love teaching, and always knew that I would, but there is something unique in the love that I have for coaching. Being a teacher and a coach has made me better at both jobs. There are skills that I use as a teacher that seamlessly blend into coaching and vice versa. As a coach, I must work with my student/athletes every day to make them better. In order to improve their various skills I have to show them what I want and how I want it done so that they can be successful. I give them the chance to show me what they are capable of doing and then improve those skills.

Teaching has helped me to be a better coach because I know that no student is the same and therefore no two students learn the same. Therefore, no two student/athletes learn the same. I also know that I will have some student/athletes that will excel in ways that others will not. I do my best to ensure that those student/athletes help those that are struggling. I do the same thing in my classroom. The students that understand and master the material are an asset the group because they help those that have difficulties in getting it the first time. This also makes the excelling students better because they get an added practice and are appropriately forced to look at things from someone else’s perspective. Not to mention most students and student/athletes feel pretty good when they help a peer.

"I know that I will have some student/athletes that will excel in ways that others will not."

I find that my best coaching comes from those “coachable moments”. Those moments when a student/athlete makes a mistake and I step in to show them what they should have done and how they can do better next time. Making mistakes in practice is a must. I feel like this is where student/athletes learn the best. They think, “instead of moving my feet in a slow round motion, I have to move them in a quick sharp motion.” When anyone learns from the mistakes they have made they are more likely to be successful in the future. Making mistakes and learning from simply makes you better.

The reason that I am on Earth is to make others better. When I see student/athletes improve and show success it provides a happiness that is incomparable. They get excited when they see this and we celebrate that success together. We both know that all of the hard work and all of the grit and determination has paid off. However, I always tell my student/athletes to remember the feeling of success, because the work is not done once you have found it. This means we both have to work harder to improve further and gain more successes.  

Do you work as a teacher/coach? Share your experiences below!

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