Do Your Methods Match Your Missions?

A fellow AD blogger for a Christian school in Texas recently wrote about the importance of running our athletic departments and teams in the same manner we expect to run our schools and live our lives.  The first of his three post series can be found here, and the rest can be found through the scroll on the bottom of the page.  That series got me thinking about two separate aspects of coaching:
– First, do you coach the same way you live?
– Secondly, do you coach the same way you teach?

I think the second question is easier to address.  Do you coach and run your team the same way you teach and run your classroom?  Obviously, this specific question only applies to coaches who are teachers, but the same principle can be applied in a slightly different question to our non-faculty coaches: do you coach the same way you would run a classroom?

I cheated a little bit with the title of this post because I’m not really talking about the school mission statement.  Typically, the school mission statement is an overall idea or goal for which methods should be aimed.  Our Grand Forks public schools mission is “Providing an environment of educational excellence that engages all learners to develop their maximum potential for community and global success.”  While that’s certainly what we’re striving for in our schools, it’s difficult to take that statement and quickly transfer it into a way of teaching kids how to play effective bunt coverages.  Rather than that, I’m referring to the methods we use in our classroom to effectively educate our students.  Are we coaching our athletes the same way we teach our students?

One very easy question to gauge a coach’s methods is to ask “Do you swear at the kids in the classroom?”  While most of our teachers will be quick to claim that they’ve never sworn in the classroom, I doubt that most of our coaches could claim the same thing.  I’ve heard many different reasons from coaches to justify swearing at practice, but most of them are related to the idea that the coach felt it was the best or only way to motivate the kids at the time.  So I return to the classroom – do we swear at the kids to motivate them to write their research papers?  Yes, the competitive environment of athletics changes the atmosphere a little bit, but that’s why it’s important to match your athletic program to your community’s and school’s goals.  Are your departments and teams being run as a part of an educational based learning system, or are they being operated on a “just win baby” system?
Similar questions/situations that show how skewed we’ve become in education outside of the classroom:
– Have you ever kicked kids out of a practice early?  How about out of a classroom early?
– Do you attempt to give every kid on your roster some individual attention at each practice?  How about students in the classroom?
– At practice, do you spend most of your time with the kids who really understand the material, or do you focus on the kids who need the most help?  How about in the classroom?
– At practices/games, do you change your attitude towards the team/kids based on their performances?  How about in the classroom?

The first question I asked is related but focused outside of the school setting.  Do you coach the way you live?  As a coach, have you created a separate set of standards for your behavior on the field/court than you have at the grocery store?

One of the favorite discussions I have with coaches is the first season or two after they have their first child.  Almost every coach I’ve talked to openly admits that his/her coaching style changed after becoming a dad/mom.  Being a parent and interacting with your own children usually calms coaches down.  It becomes easier to show how our actions as coaches directly affect the mentality and performance of the kids.  How many times have we seen someone who is a borderline raving lunatic when coaching but so much calmer outside of sports?

To be fair, I think that most coaches go through this phase at some point in their careers, often early.  I was guilty of all of these actions as a coach.  As much as I’d like to think that I would be better if I returned to coaching, who knows…that competition bug tends to change the way that rational people think and act.

So, what we need to do is continually have these questions in mind: are we coaching the way we teach, and are are we coaching the way we live?  As coaches are often reminded, our influence extends FAR beyond a win/loss record!

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