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Mar 28

The ‘Art’ of Teaching and Coaching – Part 1

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Teachers First – Then Coaches

 

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.

Which road do I take? She asked. Where do you want to go was his response?

I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.”

Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland

I like this quote because it encourages us to reflect on the reasons (why) we are doing ‘things’ and where we really want to go?” Teaching and Coaching is a creative ‘Art’ form. We deal with transmitting general and technical knowledge, and developing physical, mental, sport specific, social, and hopefully lifetime skills. A great amount of related professional knowledge is necessary in many areas above and beyond leadership, interaction and communication skills. The interesting question keeps surfacing within the ranks, whether we are Teacher, Coaches, or both.

Here is a quote from Matt Biondi (2002):

…I can’t believe the way most U.S. 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…I can’t tell you how many mornings I got to the pool and stood over the cold water and just had to force myself to drop in… (Matt Biondi, Seven Gold Medals, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and one of USA best swimmers, cited in Sports Illustrated, October 28, 2002)

“What is or makes a good Teacher or Coach?”

As a trained pedagogue, I entertain the notion that we are first or foremost teachers when we introduce physical activities or sports to young children. We become Coaches as soon as we begin to train athletes on a regular basis – although we always maintain our teaching function. As Teachers, we create the ‘Teaching Toolbox’ and as Coaches we generate the ‘Coaching Kit or Coaching Toolbox’ – our personal ‘Art’ form.

We should ask ourselves: a) what are the real reasons we choose too become Sport Coaches? b) What makes a good Teacher or Coach – one that is able to motivate young children? c) How can we motivate them to remain in our sport that can be very boring over time? Be truthful! Following someone in a straight pattern, on top of black lines up and down the pool may not be most inspiring or creative activity (!) – it can get dreary, especially for younger children. One has to stay very disciplined! It is one of the leading reasons some drop out or join other sports because it is NO longer FUN.

Researchers point out that some Coaches get involved because ‘they just love kids’, and some because they ‘love the feeling of authority and control.’ Then there are those, who ‘live vicariously’ through the accomplishments of their athletes’ (although they themselves were mediocre performers). Parents ‘get into coaching’ (usually without the proper training) because they want to assure their child has a ‘good experience’, and/or gets to swim multiple events to ‘rack up medals, with the ‘winning at all costs, ‘winning is everything’, ‘second place does not count’, or ‘nobody loves a loser’ attitude, which eventually becomes the ‘trap.’ This pursuit is not conducive to the development of younger athletes. As stated in previous newsletters, the widely accepted saying “winning is everything” is in fact a misquote by savvy media because the late football coach Vince Lombardy actually stated, “the effort and pursuit to winning is everything.”

What then makes excellent an Teacher and/or Coach? How easy or difficult is it to identify the defining characteristics?  According to sport researchers, the good Teacher or Coach works primarily on the premise that ‘children are NOT miniature adults’ and this is reflected in teaching and coaching approach. The late Bruce Lee named one outstanding trait: “Teaching requires a sensitive mind with great flexibility” (cited in Little, 2000, p. 89). The following quote may be very helpful to define quality teaching: “Creativity is a type of learning process where the Teacher and Pupil are located in the same individual” (Arthur Koestler, writer and political journalist, 1905-1983). Let’s bear in mind the news release from the 2001 Symposium of College Coaches and Administrators in Kansas City Missouri. “Don’t call them Coaches anymore – if they get their wish they will be Teachers in the future” (USA Today, p. C1).

I have modified Nine Characteristics of a ‘Good Teacher’, which we can apply to Coaches as well:

Great Teachers/Coaches respect students

Great Teachers/Coaches create a sense of community and belonging

Great Teachers/Coaches are warm, accessible, enthusiastic, and caring

Great Teachers/Coaches set high expectations for all

Great Teachers/Coaches have a love of learning and demonstrate it

Great Teachers/Coaches are skilled leaders

Great Teacher Teachers/Coaches collaborate with colleagues on an ongoing basis

Great t Teachers/Coaches maintain professionalism

Coach Schloder adds:

Great Teachers/Coaches have a great sense of humor and are able to ‘laugh at themselves’

Great Teachers/Coaches have a passion for Teaching and Coaching

Great Teachers/Coaches apply the ‘Fair Play’ principle to athletes and others

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