Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back in the saddle again! But something's got to go.

I'm back into one saddle but out of this one.

About a year-and-a-half ago I retired from coaching hockey after 32 years. I had been the co-head coach at Warroad High School for two years when I stepped down. Warroad calls itself Hockeytown, U.S.A., so you can imagine the pressure, but I also take my teaching very seriously, and it got to the point where something had to go. The stress level, the energy involved, and the time commitment simply became too much for me. So at the end of the 2005-06 season I turned in my resignation and announced my retirement from hockey. Well, I just unretired.

Our high school's junior varsity coach moved to Grand Forks at the end of the summer, so that opened up a spot on the hockey coaching staff. I have to admit that I initially made the decision kicking back with my wife on a Friday night enjoying my third Captain Morgan and Coke while she was on her second Chardonnay. Don't worry, though. I continued to think about it for a few days before I finally approached the guys on our coaching staff about it. When I explained my thought process to them, they offered to buy some more Captain Morgan for me if it would help.

The major reason that I'm jumping back into coaching again is that I feel like something is missing when I am just teaching, and that "something" has to do with my relationship with the kids and my school. I've always felt that being able to work with kids in settings in which they all definitely wanted to be there was very healthy. It was good for me, but it was also good for the kids to see me in that setting. I have missed that.

Although it is high school hockey that I am getting back into, it was actually coaching another sport that I'm convinced helped me as a teacher more than anything else that I've ever done. From 1991-99 I ran Warroad's in-house little league baseball program. Each summer during this period, I would work with all of our young baseball players in grades two through six--as many as 150 in a summer. So I would see many of these kids every summer for five years, and then four years later I would have them in my American History classes. I don't know how many times there would be some kid that I heard nothing but horror stories about as they went through middle school, and then I would get him (or her) and have absolutely no problems because of the positive relationship we'd developed earlier during those little league baseball days. I don't think it's a coincidence that I'm so unhappy with my relationship with this year's group of sophomores. They were first graders when I gave up the little league baseball job--the first class of sophomores I've had since 1994-95 that I never had in baseball.

I don't plan to ever get involved in baseball again, but hockey is something that seems to be in my blood. It will be different for me to be working primarily with junior varsity kids, because I worked strictly with varsity players as an assistant and then a head coach for the last thirteen years that I coached. I am a little nervous about the commitment I've made because, as a result of cuts in our school, my teaching load has never been more demanding. But I think I can handle it, and I think it will be fun. There's a little less time and a lot less stress than there was when I was a head coach, and it will be a challenge to work with kids who need so much emphasis on skills, skills, skills.

But adding a commitment as big as coaching hockey means that something has to go. That something is going to have to be my blogging. I've already been posting less because I've been spending so much time at school doing things to get as far ahead as possible before our hockey season begins. The season begins in a week-and-a-half, so it's time to shut her down for at least awhile. But hockey only lasts for seventeen weeks, so as Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, "I'll be back!"


Anonymous Ian H. said...

Hey - good luck and have fun! We'll be here when you get back!

10/31/2007 7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you refer to "kids," do you really mean "boys," or do you have a substantial number of girls on your hockey team?

The great importance you ascribe to having a relationship with students that begins during hockey practice makes me wonder what kind of relationship you have with your female students or any students who don't play hockey.

10/31/2007 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Roger Sweeny said...

I'll miss you. You were a voice of experience and wisdom. I hope it works out wonderfully.

I was struck by your statement, "I've always felt that being able to work with kids in settings in which they all definitely wanted to be there was very healthy."

10/31/2007 12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely about the impact which coaching can have on teaching. Two stories: when I was a first-year teacher, I was also hired as varsity soccer coach, in a school where soccer was king, so as a new teacher, I was already a 'god' to many students and that had to have helped my acceptance.
I also refereed junior high basketball for 15 years, only for the school which fed my high school. As you note, there were 20-30 ninth graders each year who recognized me in the hall or were in my class, already having a connection.

Will miss your posts but look forward to your Arrrrnold impression!

10/31/2007 2:44 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Ian, Roger, and Anonymous #2, thank you!! (I'm assuming from the comments that there are two different Anonymouses.)

Anonymous #1, you raise an interesting point. We have boys and girls hockey in Warroad, but I have only coached boys. This might seem to go against what I said in my post, but I have always felt like my overall relationship with the girls here has been better than my relationship with the boys. For example, nineteen girls signed up for the AP American Government class that I teach this year compared to three boys. I really have no explanation for that.

10/31/2007 3:07 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

Good for you! As a diehard hockey fan (here in the South!), I say go for it!!

10/31/2007 6:00 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

You're on my rss reader, so I'll be around. Good luck with the coaching.

11/16/2007 5:12 PM  
Blogger bygpowis said...

if you teach black boys, question:
what books (modern literature) recommended for young black boys in middle school/early high school to read that are engaging b/c their psychological reality's reflected?

conducting a teacher survey.

11/17/2007 5:16 PM  

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