Coaching Athletes and Coaching Students – One in the Same…Or Are They???

I often use sports analogies when talking about education because there are many similarities between the two. For example, coaches and teachers alike are willing to do whatever it takes to help others succeed. This success comes in many forms. Sure, making the game-winning shot, winning a race, and receiving a top score on a test are all evidence of success. However, improving your personal best by one second, getting three points higher on your math test than you did last time, and reading two words per minute more than you did last week are also evidence of success. What is the common factor in all of these examples of success? Well, there are two: coaching and practice.

I currently have the privilege of reading a book by Elena Aguilar titled The Art of Coaching Teams. Throughout the book the author provides numerous examples, both the successes and the struggles, of her experiences in coaching teacher teams. Throughout the book she provides useful, relevant, and meaningful suggestions on how to effectively develop both teams and leaders. In the opening paragraphs of the book, the author states, “There isn’t a formula that can be used to build an effective team. All teams inevitably look and feel different – they are made up of people, after all, and it is these people who make teams potentially transformation and also challenging to lead”. (p. xv). Whether working with teachers, students, coaches, or athletes, one thing is for sure: knowing the individual people who comprise the team, capitalizing on their strengths and weaknesses, and building one’s own capacity as an effective leader will result in successful achievements, whether athletic or academic.

Athletic and academic teams alike contain 3 dimensions as identified by Elena Aguilar.

            1. Product: A great team gets something done that is valuable, useful, and appreciated.

            2. Process: A great team’s collaboration skills increase as a result of working together.

            3. Learning: Members of a great team learn.

I challenge you all to reflect on your participation on a team. This can be when you were an athlete, a teacher, a student, or any other team you may have been part of. Was your team successful in its endeavors? Think about how your team fared in each of the three dimensions identified above. Was there something that was missing from your team that prohibited the team from reaching the desired outcome? If you answered yes to any of the above, you are not alone. In this journey called life, we have all been part of a team and we have all encountered successes and struggles. What’s important is that we take these successes and struggles as learning opportunities to do better. Opportunities to foster future development of the team or other teams we have been part of. In the next few blogs, I will share with you tips that Elena Aguilar shares that can help foster academic teams. In my comparisons between academics and athletics, I will share how these strategies and ideas are applicable to both settings.

As Aguilar states, “We can’t do it alone. No individual alone can transform our schools into places where all children get what they need every day” (p. 7).  You are not alone. Together we will share stories and ideas that will enable and empower us to be better team members and enhance the success of our teammates. Together we will discover effective strategies to help our students and athletes develop and grow into their highest potential. Together we will look at ways to help our students and athletes receive feedback and engage in practice in a way that is purposeful and meaningful.  Together we will positively impact those around us, one athletic or academic team at a time. Stay tuned for future posts and please share your successes, struggles, and ideas for coaching teams in the comments box below so we can help one another. Remember, you are not alone and I believe in you!

- Michelle Jacobsen