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What Teachers Can Learn From Effective Coaches

In my educational world teaching and coaching involve the same processes. The people that impacted my own learning most significantly were coaches. Could it be that great coaches were ahead of their time with respects to instructional best practices? Let's take a look at ten coaching practices that thankfully have found their way into the classroom.


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  1. Standards-based Grading - coaches aren't concerned with arbitrary measures of success such as letter grades. Great coaches identify a requisite set of skills that are necessary for advancement and success. Promotion and achievement are based upon clearly identified levels of skill mastery. 
  2. Authentic assessment - coaches are looking for their athletes to demonstrate their skill mastery under game-like situations. The best coaches incorporate game simulations and competitive, game-like drills into their practices. Winning coaches will use the contests as assessments for the preparation of the team and of individual players.  Success isn't based upon the final score. Great coaches recognize that winning effort and execution isn't always rewarded on the scoreboard.
  3. Engaged, Activated Learning - Great coaches recognize that athletic skill will not improve by standing around watching others perform a drill. Winning coaches will actively engage all of the the participants in activities that replicate the competition. Successful coaches understand movement enhances retention and cognition. Great coaches understand that emotion helps create deeper, and better connected, meaning with learning concepts and experiences.
  4. Problem-based Learning - Great coaches will relinquish some control in order for their athletes to overcome obstacles and develop winning habits through problem solving. These habits come to the forefront during those sideline exchanges when a coach listens and entrusts athletes to create a plan or strategy for success. Empowerment is a significant motivator.
  5. Collaboration and Teamwork - this seems obvious, then again, how long did it take classroom instructors to latch onto the merits of cooperative groups and collaboration to promote meaningful learning and achievement. Great coaches clearly define team member roles. Athletes understand the direct relationship between cooperation and success in the competitive arena.
  6. Flipped Classroom - Coaches have always had to deal with lack of time to adequately prepare. Recently, contact time between coach and player on many levels was reduced through strict guidelines. Coaches circumvent this by allowing players to study video, review game plans, and condition their bodies apart from organized practice time. (How Urban Meyer Took The Buckeyes To School) Practice time is reserved for checking understanding, honing skills, and rehearsing game plans prior to competition. Did I hear someone say year-round school? Which sport doesn't have an off-season training program?
  7. Data-Driven Decision Making - Coaches have long used statistical data to chart opponent tendencies and prepare game plans. More importantly, coaches use data to self-scout and assess their own team's progress towards goals.
  8. Differentiated Instruction - Effective coaches identify unique skill sets and abilities in order to create competitive line-ups. Differentiation allows coaches to put players in the best positions to maximize their talents and skills. Good practice plans allow time for individual skill development based upon assessment of the individual players current skill level, and anticipated growth. Good practice plans also permit time for position groups to drill and develop skills and techniques specific to the positions that they play.
  9. Professional Learning Teams - Winning coaches see the benefit of meeting frequently with their own coaching staffs, as well as, meeting with other professionals in the business. Coaching clinics, books, and social media groups are at the heart of coaching personal learning networks.
  10. Care & Passion - Effective coaches are passionate about the sport that they coach. More importantly, great coaches care for their players. These coaches take time to learn as much as they can about their players' interests and abilities. They use this knowledge to put players in the best positions to be successful. Winning coaches understand developing the whole person and take interest in their players' academic progress. They provide support in ways that other adults either can't or won't.  



Great coaches have learned that winning contests occurs when players develop winning habits. Coaches are able to sustain consistent program success when players and coaches are encouraged to take responsibility for individual skill and knowledge development, as well as, collaborate with teammates and coaches to create, and then meet goals for success in the competitive arena. Classroom teachers would do well to become familiar with the practices and techniques of successful coaches.

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