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Oct 28

“Playing or Doing versus Educating” in the Sports Scenario

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Why is teaching/coaching general ‘body awareness’ under-rated and conducted minimally in most North American sports programs? – And for that matter in school physical education programs. “Being in tune with one’s body” is essential so athletes can avoid burnout, injuries or physical breakdown (Schloder, 2008). The dilemma is: “We play or do sports,” which is not the same as being educated ‘in’ the physical (knowledge of the body) ‘through’ the physical (physical activities). Our athletes/ swimmers are at a great disadvantage because they seldom get exposed to ‘experiential’ learning or teaching during their early years. We should remember that the “aim of education is to discover not merely to imitate” (Bruce Lee as cited in Little, 2000, p. 89). Whitten (2000) poses a witty, though serious question “are breaststrokers smarter?” He suggests that like the song “there must be fifty ways to leave your lover there must be a hundred ways to swim the breaststroke.” Creative and playful experimentation in this stroke has led to more new ideas than in any other stroke (p. 5). Learning techniques without inward experiencing can only lead to superficiality” (Bruce Lee as cited in Little, 2000, p. 89). This type of learning has to take place outside the pool and through a multitude of physical activities.

This brings up the persistent query in the profession: Teachers or Coaches – or What? Are coaches “teachers? What makes a good teacher or coach? Can you name or describe characteristics of outstanding teachers/coaches? Moreover, do you have what it takes to be a good teacher and coach? The way you see your role (teacher–coach or just a coach) determines the process to teach/ coach the athletes. Bear in mind this newsworthy release from the Symposium of College Coaches and Administrators in Kansas City, Missouri, 2001. “Don’t call them coaches anymore – if they get their wish they will be teacher-coaches in the future (USA Today, p. C1). Wow! That means we need to reinforce that coaching is a teaching profession with proper education, certification, and professional preparation on a daily basis! The following is an enlightening quote from one of USA best male swimmers during the 1980s:

…. I can’t believe the way swimmers are coached. They’re put through boring mega yardage workout from age six which takes all the fun out of swimming. Some day I’d like to start a swim camp that doesn’t even have lane lines or blocks and just teach kids to feel the water and use proper technique….

Matt Bionic, Winner of Seven Gold Medals, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, as cited in Sports Illustrated.

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