As coaches, we endeavour to guide athletes to the next level. As teachers, we strive to do likewise for students. Along the road to success, the court and the classroom provide parallel paths. What student-athletes learn in one environment is reflected in the other.
Coaches value basketball ability and skills such as initiative, teamwork, mental training, leadership, and work ethic. When athletes demonstrate that they have met these expectations, they are rewarded with minutes and touches (along with praise, constructive feedback, and self-confidence). These rewards are not equally distributed; coaches allocate burn and ball based on most consistent and most recent performance.
Teachers value subject aptitude and skills like initiative, teamwork, organization, independent work, and work habits. When students demonstrate that they have met these expectations, they are rewarded with marks (along with praise, constructive feedback, and self-confidence). These marks are not equally distributed; teachers assign marks based on most consistent and most recent performance.
Just like we cannot separate the student from the athlete, we cannot take apart the teacher from the coach. We may not be in the classroom but we are still trying to create a positive environment that enables student-athletes to meet and surpass expectations, develop intangible skills, and improve themselves.
What is the best training:competition ratio? How do coaches balance winning with development? The answer changes with each age group and it is up to the coach to establish the appropriate program for the athletes, in terms of skill development, physical and mental training, and opportunities to compete.
Most teachers know the entire curriculum and what is required at the post-secondary level. They can provide guidance to students who want to pursue that field. Most coaches are aware (at some level) of Long Term Athlete Development but may not understand the principles correctly and may not accurately communicate that information to athletes
Teachers do not want a student to peak for the mid-term report card period. Coaches do not want a player to “peak by Friday,” as Istvan Balyi would say. If we plan an entire course of study and evaluation schedule, why not do likewise for the entire season? If we design an entire a four-year curriculum, why not do the same for a player who progresses from the Bantam to Varsity teams?
At school, there may be too many second chances. Aside from literacy and numeracy, the most critical component of the curriculum is life skills. After they learn to learn and learn to think, they must learn to be responsible. Escaping the consequences reinforce a casual attitude.
In sport, there is often only one chance. For an Olympian, more than ten thousand hours of preparations might be judged on a ninety second performance. They must be accountable to themselves because they will live with the consequences for life.
Educators should use their professional judgment to bring the real world into the classroom and the court. More importantly than success at the next level is success in life. Teachers and coaches should open the eyes of the student-athletes to what they need to accomplish and what they are capable of doing. Leaders cannot choose for others impose consequences upon those who are unwilling (rules without relationship equals rebellion) but they can inspire them to make their own choices and accept the consequences.
Teachers can learn from coaches by incorporating high-intensity repetitions during “training” and meaningful “competitions” into the curriculum. They can also practice mental training in the classroom to reduce adolescent stress. There is no harm to demand more and hold students to a higher standard. You get what you accept.
Coaches can learn from teachers by using backward design to guide training and reducing the number of competitions to make them more significant. There is room for accomadations to enable each athlete to reach their full potential. Just as peer pressure is important in the classroom, it is imperative to understand the social network within the team. Keep the ultimate purpose paramount and make learning continuous.
When teachers and coaches employ the same principles, the message that is communicated to student-athletes is loud and clear. There is neither contradiction, nor confusion, simply helping players succeed in school, sport, and life.