It’s been a few years since I’ve had the chance to coach a basketball game, almost five years in fact. I can’t tell you how much I missed it!! I’ve been a starter, a bench warmer, a referee, an assistant coach, a head coach, and a fan…I’ve even been the score book and score clock person! As much as I love all those other roles in basketball there really is nothing like coaching.
How often do you find a class full of students who aren’t very good (relatively) at the skill/subject at hand, yet desperately want to get better and can have a lot of fun going through that process? As an educator, whether teacher or coach, there is just nothing like the awesome energy that is created in this scenario…especially when, as the educator, the subject is something that you’re very passionate about yourself.
In my family there are three kids, me and my two younger sisters, and we all became educators despite the fact that neither of our parents are educators themselves. People often ask us how this happened and the best I can figure is that our father (and sometimes our mother) coached all of us in basketball from the first day we tried to dribble until our playing careers ended. It was his passion for helping create, not basketball players, but well-rounded young adults who happened to play basketball that really rings true with me today. The energy was always positive, kids were always learning (not always basketball), and everyone was having fun!
Thinking about what makes a successful learning environment in schools, it’s no wonder my father was such a successful basketball coach. He built positive relationships that combined with an engaging and exciting learning environment. It’s really no different than the culture we’re trying to create within our own classrooms. I know the context is different but the general concepts are still the same: Provide a warm and welcoming environment, engage your learners, build passion for the subject (not always required), and make learning fun.
Coaching and teaching are really the same thing, especially when you think about coaching practice. It can get boring and requires extra planning and effort to be engaging for my players. It is especially difficult when it comes to fundamental skills that, in order to really improve, require repetitive practice. However, some how, when it comes to sport practice coaches often find engaging ways to get kids practicing skills…games based on the skill, relay races using the skill, incorporating them into warm up exercises, or creating stations to break up the monotony of the practice. No coach would ever give their players a worksheet to practice basketball. Similarly, no coach would tell his players to be quiet and go dribble by yourself for 15 minutes. Basketball is a team game, players learn and grow together…what if we approached each class the same way, as a team game?
I could go on and on about basketball and coaching but what I really want to leave you with today is the idea that teaching in the classroom doesn’t have to follow a certain (boring) pattern. Many of you are coaches yourselves, or directors of plays or music, or mentors to after school activities, or members of teams and clubs yourselves. Think about those experiences, what is it that makes those things so engaging and fun for you? They are your passions, just like teaching. Our passions excite us and sharing them is a joy, does your classroom feel the same way?