Monday, January 11, 2010

Tunney Side of Sports; “Coming up next … Coach vs. Teacher” - #263 – January 11, 2010

After Further Review … “Nothing is ever so bad it can’t be made worse by firing the Coach,” wrote former syndicated sports columnist Jim Murray. Murray, arguably the greatest ever, was able to succinctly capture the essence of a sports story with humor and satire. What brings the Murray quote to mind is that this is the time of year when football coaches are “separated” from their jobs.

So, what IS the role of a coach? At the Little League and high school levels, a coach’s focus needs to be on TEACHING. T.E.A.M.s certainly should “play to win the game,” as Coach Herm Edwards says in my book “It’s the Will, Not the Skill.” However, teaching must come first. My belief is: a coach helps you become a better player and a better person. Coaching and teaching are synonymous.

As a former high school teacher and administrator, I believe that IS the role of a teacher – to help students become better people as well as better learners. What if a teacher looked at students as “players;” e.g. some are quarterbacks, some are linemen, some are wide receivers – each student having different strengths? Classroom teachers, then, do the same thing as coaches do on the field, they develop each student’s special talents.

Should college and professional coaches be teachers as well? One former NFL coach told me, “In the NFL, you don’t get paid to coach/teach; you get paid to win.” Can a pro coach do both – teach and win? I have known NFL coaches (with whom I had the pleasure of being on the field) who did both -- e.g. Lombardi, Landry, Walsh, Shula, Madden and Edwards. Players always spoke highly of their learning experiences both on and off the field, and appreciated the efforts their coaches made in helping them become “better people, as well as better players.”

Good coaches do that. However, teaching too often takes a back seat to the pressure of winning. College coaching, for example, has become a race to be number 1. Indeed, some college coaches let their desire (ego?) to win get in the way of what their real purpose must be. However, given the choice, good coaches place teaching ahead of winning-at-all-costs. Unfortunately, economics drives that winning-at-all-costs attitude. Too bad!

Will you support those teachers/coaches who strive to help their students/players become the best they can be both on and off the field?

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