Sunday, March 15, 2015

Excerpt from What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches - Introduction

Below is an excerpt from my newest book, What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches. I'm going to post a few short excerpts over the next few weeks, but I thought I'd begin with the Introduction to give readers an idea of what the book really is about. I hope you enjoy the excerpt and I hope you'll consider picking up or downloading a copy of the book.

What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches, by Nathan Barber
Copyright 2014, Routledge/Eye on Education
     What is a coach? The word coach seems to have originated in Hungary at some point in the 16th century and described a large carriage used for transportation. In the early 19th century, coach became an Oxford University slang term for a tutor who “carried” a student, as in preparation for university exams. Later in the 19th century, coach at last appeared in the vocabulary of sports as one who leads a team. An interesting thread runs through these three examples of coach. Do you see it yet?

     We can deduce that coach morphed into the verb coaching at some point during the 19th century once the associations with tutoring and leading sports teams became commonplace. Now, in the 21st century, what lies at the heart of coaching actually can be traced back to its three original, unique, yet related uses. The all-time winningest high school boys soccer coach in the United States, Terry Michler, makes an astute observation about coaching in the modern world. Michler, who coaches at Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, Missouri, says, “[coaching] involves taking someone where they could not get on their own.” With one short phrase, Michler sums up and ties together the three original applications of the word coach. All three of the original meanings of coach involved taking someone – a passenger, a student, an athlete – somewhere he couldn’t go on his own – a distant geographic destination, the Dean’s List, the league championship. A good coach does the same today.

     Coaching is teaching. Who knows who first said this, but this phrase has been quoted and requoted countless times, and with good reason. A great coach also is a great teacher, even if the subject matter is zone defense, the pick and roll, the bunt or the art of putting. Don’t take my word for it, though. Consider what these great coaches have to say on the subject:
“The coach is first of all a teacher.” John Wooden     
“They are about as parallel as anything can be.” Terry Michler
“At the end of the day, coaching is teaching.” Brian Boland
“Coaching is teaching.  Great coaches/teachers are good communicators; start with the end in mind; stress the fundamental (little things) concepts; practice and build on those fundamental concepts daily; reteach until the concept is mastered; motivate their students; and establish positive relationships with their students.” Dale Monsey
“Coaching and teaching are one in the same in that the educator has one purpose in mind: to share knowledge with the student/athlete in the hopes of making them smarter both mentally and physically.” Patti Gerckens
“Coaching obviously is synonymous with teaching because I think great coaching is effective teaching. What you’re trying to do is to accelerate someone’s growth in the game that you’re an expert in, and you’re trying to give them the benefit of your experience by sharing with them what they can do to get to their potential.” Anson Dorrance

     Even when the subject matter differs, great coaches and great teachers have a great deal in common. Great coaches and teachers communicate effectively, harness the power of teamwork, make work meaningful, embrace technology, build a winning tradition, teach life lessons and seek continuous improvement. Drawing on the wisdom of some of the best and most successful coaches in the business today, this book draws parallels between great coaches and great teachers, between great coaching and great teaching. Using examples from the lives and experiences of these great coaches, this book illustrates the correlation between teaching in the sports world and teaching in the classroom. As you read through the book, note that coaches whose names are italicized have provided direct input for this book. Without their wisdom, this book would not have come together as such a practical yet meaningful guide to great teaching.

     Although this book could be read cover to cover in a few sittings, each section has been divided into short, easily digestible pieces to be read and pondered and then applied. Additionally, because of the way the book has been structured, reading through the sections in order is not necessary. Browse the sections, find what interests you or what you need, then read, consider and repeat. Regardless of how you read through the book, my hope is that you are challenged by the ideas presented here and that you find many of these ideas relevant and useful in your own teaching journey.

Nathan Barber

The above information is Copyright 2014 Routledge/Eye on Education and Nathan Barber

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