5 Ways Great Coaches Can Teach Teachers


We are all aware that countless students eagerly look forward to the last bell  not to go home, but to play a team sport. Why is that, and how could we get students to show the same level of enthusiasm during the actual school day?

Great coaches have an edge in the classroom.

Effective coaches have an edge when it comes to inspiring todays youth to greatness, and parents, classroom teachers, administrators, and reformers should take note of these characteristics:

  1.      The Best Coaches let athletes Fail, and they do not harshly punish them when they make mistakes. Instead, they analyse what went wrong with each athlete and move on to the next play. Grades and high-stakes tests and examinations can damage morale and reinforce futility and despair in the classroom. Too often, well-meaning teachers go to great lengths to ensure that students do not fail. If kids don’t deal with adversity in the classroom, itunlikely they will be able to deal with it in their real lives. Like coaches, teachers should encourage students to make bold moves and to rethink how failure can lead to success.
  1.      Coaches Acknowledge athletes’ Individual Progress: On the field,coaches should congratulate athletes when they reach their full potential. I recently read an interview on legendary cross-country coach Joe Newton. He has successfully led his school (York Community High School, Illinois) to 28 state titles during the 50 years he has been their coach.  Newton said that “he has three guys on his team currently that weigh more than 250 pounds (114 kg). They are out there in front of the whole team at practice. I told two of them that their bodies are not built for running, yet theyre out here every day sweating buckets! I just love guys like that!  You choose to be average, or you choose to be good, or you choose to be great.’ While they may not win us single pointin my eyes, they are great because they come out and give me all they have.'” How many math or history teachers would say as much of a student trying equally hard, but only earning a D?
  1.       Acknowledge the Power of Hard Work: Top coaches assist players see real improvement. For example, at the start of a season, a coach might discuss fitness goals with their athletes. Before long many of them will be sporting six-pack abs, along with impressive improvement. Even the most athletically ungifted player revels in achieving new personal records, in turn motivating them to continue working just as hard — or harder. In the classroom, teachers should provide students with corresponding goals and measurements for progress to encourage (rather than discourage) continued growth.
  1.      Affirm the Power of Teamwork:The simple truth is that regardless how talented  a player or players are, on the playing field, victory is impossible without teamwork. The best coaches promote positive relationships, and their players revel in accomplishing something they couldn’t do alone. As the cliché goes “ the entire team is only as strong as its weakest player”, and it’s the job of the team to help an individual improve. In the classroom as well, pursuing individual academic competence must remain paramount, but teachers should encourage students to support each other. Too often, students compete against each other for high grades and standardized test scores. Just think of what happens when all the players on the same team compete against each other for possession of the ball — they all suffer.
  2.       Teach the Value of Struggle: During training, many school athletes follow a strict diet. They aren’t allowed to have sweets or fizzy drinks, except on special occasions. Repeated signs of struggle and a lack of progress is a clear giveaway they are not keeping to the workout plan and nutritional regimen. To ensure future compliance, coaches work them even harder. Eventually, those that stick with it quickly show signs of improvement, not just on match day, but also in their overall health and appearance. With academic dishonesty reaching ever-greater heights, in the classroom teachers need to do a much better job of showing students the value of learning through struggle. Just as on the field, by taking shortcuts, they only cheat themselves.

If you’re a coach, what other lessons could teachers learn from your practices?