Coaching in the Classroom

Flickr photo by Axlape
I recently listened to the Harvard EdCast "Pigskin Pedagogy" that discussed what the teaching profession could learn from the fundamentals of the NFL. While I found it very engaging, I wished they had spent more time discussing the similarities between teaching and athletic coaching. 

It is rare that great professional athletes become great coaches. More often, exemplary coaches come from the ranks of bench warmers. Superstar athletes often possess supernatural abilities to know where the ball is going to be, omnipotent timing and spacial awareness or a sixth sense about their opponents tendencies. It is because these abilities often come to them naturally, that it can be very difficult for them to show someone else on how to replicate their success.

In contrast, the bench warming coach spent hundreds of hours watching the game and had to spend endless hours honing their skill just so they could stay on the team. Thus, their ability to break down a complex set of skills into easily identifiable steps is a result of their having to go through the same process throughout their professional career.

 Coaches know that for their athletes to be successful the must make the complex easy to learn. They need to provide time to practice skills in slow motion so that they can be executed in seconds. They must structure practice time so that it replicates game time actions. They need to understand their athlete's strengths and weaknesses so that they can get the most out of them. They need to mold individuals into a team. They know that talent isn't everything, they must find a way to motivate great performances. In the end, they know that it is not about them, but the performance of their athlete that will determine their success as a coach.

While they won't receive the salary or accolades of big league coaches, educators that embrace their role as that of a coach will be able to celebrate the success of their students.

Teach celebrates by thanking their coach
Flickr photo by EAWB