4 Things Coaches Can Learn From Teachers
When I started coaching I still had a player’s mindset. I knew how to play and could demonstrate skills, but I soon realized my players needed more from me. If my team was going to reach their potential, I was going to have to expand my perspective so I could explain the game in a way they would understand. And this is where I think I have lucked out: beyond the coaching education I have completed, I am currently enrolled in the Teacher Education program at the University of Ottawa. I would say it is common knowledge that being a teacher and a coach is a natural combination, but I do not think everyone realizes how transferable many of the skills are between the two positions. I feel confident saying that my coaching experience has made me a better teacher, but I would like to share how being trained as an educator has helped with my development as a coach.
Coaches, here are a few current educational concepts you can try to elevate your “basketball classroom” to the next level:
1. (Teacher) Consider Your Learner’s Developmental Stage = (Coach) Familiarize Yourself with the LTAD Model
Who are you coaching? How you interact with a bunch of 14 year olds going through growth spurts and mood swings will be quite different than a team full of energetic 9 year olds who do not know how to control their own bodies. Not only do teachers need to know the curriculum for their grade, they have to be aware of the social, emotional and physical stage their students are in to best engage their class. Now, I am not suggesting that all coaches take a course in Child Development, but the Long-Term Athlete Development Model is a fantastic resource that every coach should absolutely read. From windows of optimal training for speed and strength to which sport specific skills should be introduced at each age level, Canada Basketball’s Athlete Development Model will help you understand, and therefore serve your athletes better.
2. (Teacher) Flip The Classroom = (Coach) Develop A Player-Led Team
The current message for teachers-in-training is that they should limit their “front-of-class” talking time because students become more engaged in lessons when they have a larger role in the learning. While teachers might do this by including more hands-on activities, coaches can similarly cut down on their speaking time in practice. I know it can be tough to give up reigns sometimes, but try allowing for some controlled chaos in your practices. Seeing how your players organize a new drill without explaining all the details will provide some fantastic teachable moments. If you want to take it a step further, next time a practice is not going according to plan ask your players what they think they need to work on, why they think a drill is going poorly or how they think they could improve their next rep. I have been amazed at the improvements made by students and players when they start thinking for themselves.
3. (Teacher) Differentiate Lesson Plans = (Coach) Scale/Load Drills
Another similarity between teaching and coaching is that one size does not fit all students or athletes. If you want to be a great coach, you can not treat every player the same. The goal is equity (giving everyone what they need to be successful), not equality (giving everyone the same thing). One of the biggest challenges, whether leading a classroom or a team, is dealing with the fact that you have individuals at various skill levels. You may have a drill in mind for practice, but the question is how will you alter it to suit your players’ needs. And let me tell you: it is completely fine to have some of your team going through a scaled version, while some others work on a loaded version. Ideally you will hit that sweet spot where every athlete is feeling confident and challenged at the same time. These separated skill development times can be balanced by other drills where players of different abilities are working together to improve the team as a whole. In the “mixed-ability groups” you can even challenge your stronger players to be leaders by helping their teammates get to the next level through reminders and encouragement.
4. (Teacher) Build Relationships = (Coach) Build Relationships
If you are only able to implement one suggestion, let it be this one. Get to know your athletes - what motivates them, how do they learn best, what is going on in their lives outside of the gym. It is amazing what students/athletes can accomplish when they feel seen and respected. Find common ground to connect with them on, be a role model and show some vulnerability so they know it is okay to do the same. Everyone’s basketball career will end at some point, so you may want to ask yourself a question. What are you leaving your players with that will stick with them for life? Many have said it before and I will say it again: people may forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel!
This post was written by Right Way coach, Clare Murphy, who is currently completing her Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Ottawa while also serving as an assistant coach the Women's Varsity Basketball Team.