Are Coaches All Dumb Jocks?
Before taking on my first coaching gig, I had a very strong stereotyped image of high school coaches. I thought that they were all ignorant fools who taught the easiest classes they could in order to feed their need to be involved in athletics to overcome their pent-up aggression from not being picked for the football team 15 years ago in high school. I thought coaching was nothing more than an obsession with sports and a desire to feel superior to something.
Then, my good friend and AD at my school came to me and asked me, “You like football, right?” This was a ploy and I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t; “Yes,” I answered, “It’s kinda my sport.” Then came the jawbreaker, “Would you coach the football team this year? We lost our coach.” Hold on a second, remember what I thought about coaches, yeah, irony.
I took him up on the offer, figured that it might be a good chance to prove my theories about coaches. Yes, I was the middle school history teacher, but I was that first and a coach second. Somewhere down the line (probably halfway through the season), I realized that there is much more to coaching than yelling at kids and making them do exercises that I couldn’t do when I was their age. I learned that coaching, in itself, is a form of teaching, a high form of teaching. In fact, following the experience, I think that coaching is possibly the highest form of teaching and that its arts, properly integrated into the classroom, can produce results far greater than any direct instruction method. Coaching is teaching and beyond.
Elements of a Good Coach
I finished that first football season moving our team from dead last to 4th place in our little league, the next year dropping to 5th, then I left coaching and got into reffing, but that’s another story entirely. Following on the football season, that same blamed Athletic Director asked me to be assistant coach for varsity Basketball. It was in the following few months that I began to learn exactly how much work a real coach, a good coach, puts himself to. Now I will get into some of the nitty-gritty of coaching, the day-in and -out of what it means to be a coach, and why these men ought to be respected highly (especially if they’re good) for what they do.
A Day in the Life…
As a football coach I had to learn to coordinate a huge amount of equipment, people, fields, practice schedules, class time, grades, the list goes on. The average day for my first year as a teacher and a coach, went like this:
- 5:30am – Rise and shine, time to greet another day
- 6:30am – Arrive at school with the only other staff coach to get the days education ready. Once or twice a week we would meet with students whose grades were failing to help them through the curve.
- 7:30 – Students begin to arrive, so much for work, now I have to go talk to my player, make sure they are mentally prepared for school today and that they will eat healthfully and strive to excel, and to remind them to drink water (don’t know why this is a problem, but it is).
- 7:50 – Classes begin. First Bible, then Latin, then to 6th grade Latin, then back to 8th grade for Math, then Humanities (combined & Integrated English, History, Social Studies and Reasoned Discussion) then a break for lunch.
- 12:30 – Another hour of Humanities, and then an hour of AP Latin.
- 2:10 – Classes released, school over. Me, dead, but now I have about one hour to prepare a 2 hour practice session and streamline it. Plus, I usually have a few parents to talk to.
- 3:15 – Practice begins, and lasts ’til 5:15 and I am on the field picking up and finished until 5:30.
- 5:30 – Grade, grade, grade and prep for tomorrow
- 6-7 – Arrive home to my wife, eat and spend some quality time before hitting the books to catch up on all the reading, I can’t let the kids get ahead of me.
- 11:00 – Lights out. another 6 1/2 hours of sleep before I do it all again.
This is the life of a coach. The good ones are supermen, I was not, but I was tired often.
What is a Coach?
So what does a coach do that makes them so special? Let’s see:
A coach is a mentor: The good coach, along with being a teacher keeps tabs on all his players as well as other students involved with the programs. The coach has to lead a disciplined life as an example to his (or her) players. Along with teaching a sport, the coach represents integrity, stewardship, honesty and perseverance. The coach works hard to instill this in his team and often takes time out of his schedule to focus on a single student needing help.
A coach is a life trainer: The good coach will stay in contact with his players for years to come, helping them through difficult times, often reinforcing messages that were learned long ago.
A coach is a counselor: Often students will find themselves on the verge of a breakdown and a coach is their first choice as a counselor. A coach must train himself to listen and be patient through these times.
A coach is a medic: In many small schools it falls to the coach to take care of basic minor emergencies, he must be a student of the human body.
A coach is an event planner: Let’s face it coaches have to have a plan for everything they do. A practice session is not just a bunch of drills strung together haphazardly, it is part of an overall goal and ever-dynamic necessity. Practice sessions are focused on particular goals that are part of an overall plan, and each and every activity and drill has a specific purpose in fitting these goals. Furthermore, before every game a coach must prepare a set of strategies for the game ahead. He must make a “Game-plan.” This is not just a figure of speech, but a reality for every coach. Coaches who don’t plan, fail.
Besides all these functions, a coach must teach as well. The coach may or may not be a subject-matter expert, but he will learn, and so will his students.
My life lesson through this experience was to not sell-short those who function as coaches, otherwise you might find yourself learning just how much work it is to be a coach.