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Teacher or Coach?

Working at a boarding school where the demands on the faculty members are high, I’m often forced to ask myself many questions.  Am I a teacher, coach, dorm parent or all three rolled into one?  Can I give 100% to all three roles and still have life left for my family?  If I’m a great teacher can I be a good coach?  Should I focus my energy on my passion, teaching?  How can I wear all three hats at once?  Is what we do here best helping our students?  Is there another way?

These questions and many more encircle my mind on an almost daily basis.  It’s always about the boys.  As a coach, I feel I am inadequate.  I am not athletically inclined.  I don’t have a mind for sports.  I don’t even personally like sports, but I have to coach.  So, I teach the sport of basketball.  My classroom is the court.  I give the students goals, we work hard, and I try to equip them with the essential skills needed to advance to the next level in the coming years.  Is that enough?  Am I helping or hindering my players?

My basketball team has remained winless this season.  Sure, they have all grown dramatically as players and we have bonded as a team.  Each game highlights their growth.  They are amazing basketball players.  I am so proud to call myself their coach.  However, it’s got to be hard as a middle school boy to not have won a game all season.  Each game we set goals to help us be successful.  We fight and play with all our might, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough.  However, through it all, we never give up.  We never hang our heads low.  We focus on the positives, smile, cheer on our teammates, and play with gusto.  We overcome adversity each and ever game.  While the boys could have given up weeks ago and been sour about our season, they are not.  They are looking ahead, they are learning from their mistakes, and they are strong.  Is that enough?  Am I doing my team a dis-service my not being a great coach?

Saturday, we played our rival team on their home turf.  After a long drive, we warmed up.  We discussed our goals and set the boys up for success.  Our main goal was to play smart basketball bravely.  We wanted to be courageous in everything we did on the court.  That was it.  While we didn’t win Saturday’s epic battle, we played our best game of basketball to date.  The boys played like brave soldiers.  We pulled down more rebounds and made more shot attempts than the other team.  We broke their press time after time.  We made their coach scared and forced him to call timeouts.  We played basketball like we knew what we were doing.  Despite what the scoreboard said, the boys won that game.  They dominated the other team.

While I love working with my team this season, am I helping them in every way possible?  Am I the best person to coach them?  My first priority is teaching and always will be.  Is motivating my team enough?  Is teaching them basketball most beneficial for them as players?  These are questions I may never know the answers to.  Since it’s all about the boys, I will keep on plugging away and remind my players that it’s not about the score, it’s about what they leave on the floor.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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