Friday, October 18, 2013

5 Lessons for the Classroom I Learned from Coaching Youth League Soccer

I have coached soccer from the youngest ages through high school. When I first began coaching (I was recruited when my son's first coach called and said, I'm sorry but ...) In order for the team to be able to compete there had to be a coach. I stepped forward (with a little encouragement from my wife). I had learned how to play soccer (goalie) in the Army which lead me to coaching goalies at the high school level. High school is one thing but my son and others who were 6 and under...Hmmm. I needed help.

I took a series of state courses. These courses were designed to help make you understand your role. I lucked out! The instructor was amazing! He was focused on us understanding what we really were...and what we were supposed to do...

So here are the 5 lessons I learned from being a youth league coach that helped me as a teacher...

1. Kids like routines
2. Get them playing with the ball (In other words...shut up)
3. You are a cheerleader
4. Parents are your friend... no matter what
5. All kids can learn

1. Kids like and need routines.

He taught us to start and stop practice from the same place, a blanket. Give them instructions for practice/games and summarize practice. Opening and closing. During games they stay on the blanket when they are not on the field. While other coaches' kids were a mess during games and practice...guess what? Not mine. It even worked for giving parents instructions. They got used to the routine.

2. Get them playing with the ball (In other words...shut up)

Too often the coach will talk them to death. All they want to do is play with the ball. So short instructions. Get them playing with the ball. How about in the class. Too often as the adult in the room we talk and talk and the kids sit and...maybe get. Mainly they get bored. Shut up and get them playing with whatever the content is.

3. You are a cheerleader.

They need encouragement. They need support. They need understanding. They need you to believe in them. They need you to help them when they fail. They need to get back out there and try, again. Sound familiar. All of this applies to the classroom. We are cheerleaders in the classroom as well. Let go of the image of a college professor weeding students out...We make the future possible.

4. Parents are your friend... no matter what...

I had conversations with my team's parents. I talked with them and gave them homework to help their kids succeed. I explained what they could and could not do during games. I talked to individuals when needed and didn't avoid difficult conversations. They helped me to be a cheerleader. They helped by sending their kids prepared for practice (You would be surprised...some would send them without water, shin guards, and even a ball if you let them) You had to take time with the parents. Same as with school. Show them how they can help. Involve them when you can. Get them to help with situations with their child. Have difficult conversations when necessary. (My favorite difficult conversation involved a parent who always wanted to give her child a Twinkie before playing, when he scored a goal, and at half-time. A Twinkie...really? Power food? Not so sure...made for colorful vomit, though.)

5. All kids can learn.

Sure... some are quicker than others. And some...were not moving quick enough. As a coach you had to be prepared to push all kids. You had to be prepared to stretch the skills of the more advanced and pull up those who were not quite there, yet. You had to believe in all of them. You had to find out what each needed and focus on that. (Sounds like Formative assessment and Differentiation)

In the game of soccer, you want players to score and to stop the other team from scoring. In realizing that all could learn you had to help create situations where all could experience success. My favorite job was trying to create opportunities for all kids to score a goal. (This is not as easy as it sounds...especially with the youngest. At the early ages they don't want to share the ball. In soccer you have to share or you fail. )

These are the 5 Lessons I learned for the classroom that helped me become a better a teacher and educator. Have you had any similar lessons?