Sunday, February 03, 2008

Teaching and coaching

As a teacher-coach, I appreciated this article about coaches by Tanya Judd Pucella in Teacher Magazine. Pucella is a self-described "recovering anti-coach" who ended up marrying one.

Pucella had reason to be an "anti-coach." As she says:
"I was a social studies teacher—the department most often dominated by coaches—and eventually found myself as one of only three teachers who did not also have a coaching assignment. Many of our coach-teachers matched the traditional stereotype. They tolerated a classroom assignment for a few hours a day so they could pursue their true profession on the fields and courts of our campus. They rarely attended our department meetings and avoided service on teacher committees. Professional development? Forget it! Their classrooms tended to be dominated by worksheets and seat work, rather than instruction designed to meet identified student needs."

Unfortunately, there are too many of those stereotypical teacher-coaches that Pucella describes, but allow me to say a few words in their defense. The demands on head coaches are enormous, and they've grown dramatically since I first became a teacher coach 34 years ago. It used to be that coaches were expected to be decent men who knew a little bit about the game. Some of the towering figures in early Minnesota high school hockey were wonderful men who cared greatly about their players, but when it came to coaching, they did little more than throw the puck out on the ice and let the kids go at it. If they had enough talented kids, they would win. If they didn't, they would lose, but they wouldn't have to worry about being fired unless they did something incredibly stupid. In fact, they were still highly respected in their communities. My, how things have changed!

Now coaches are are expected to run highly sophisticated practices, and each practice should be different from every other. They are expected to have each game videotaped, and then they are expected to spend hours analyzing those videos. Opponents are to be thoroughly scouted. Coaches are also expected spend time working with their youth (or feeder) programs, and to attend meetings of various boards dealing with those programs. This is not to mention the hours spent on buses going to and coming from games and scrimmages. And then, no matter how thorough and conscientious and inspiring they've been, if there are too many years with not enough wins and not enough championships, they can expect to be unceremoniously dismissed.

I was appointed as a co-head coach in 2004, but after two years, I decided that I had to step down. Trying to do the kind of job that I wanted to do with my coaching and teaching responsibilities was overwhelming. If I'd have continued in that position, I'd have either begun to slip in my teaching or slip in my coaching, or burned out on both. And my kids were grown, so I didn't have the family responsibilities that many younger teacher-head coaches have. The demands on them can only be described as impossible.

Yet, as Pucella's article makes clear, there are teacher-head coaches, and even teacher-coach-parents out there who manage to do a great job at all of their responsibilities. Quite frankly, I don't know how they do it.


Anonymous Zeke said...

I often found coaches who would be great partners with classroom teachers, especially in terms of getting work done. The AD can also set expectations in this area. Both of these situations assume the administration, Board, and community support such efforts, though.

As a teacher-coach for many years, I found that the connections I made on the field had very positive carryover to the classroom, both with my athletes in my own classes and with other students who knew I was the 'Coach'. I'm not sure that I realized until years later how much being soccer coach benefited me in my first job, even though I was pretty much a 'throw the ball out there' one. At my first school, soccer was king and the soccer coach was god, so I just naturally started my career with advantages. This continued as I became a referee, doing quite a few JV games at the school where I taught. This gave me a connection with parents which was very useful.

I agree, Dennis, that I could never be a coach now, with added responsibilities and expectations, and almost year-round duties, paid or unpaid.

2/04/2008 4:10 AM  
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Blogger Edword Model said...

That is a very good subject matter, since schools are filled with both teachers and coaches. It will be good to find out how they can complement their roles from here, site. I hope the coach she got married to was better off, or that she was able to make him understand how important it is to pay attention to his teaching role.

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