Classroom Connection

In my son's school there is a large banner that reads, "High Expectations = High Achievement." Applied appropriately, setting high standards for children will enhance their academic and athletic performance.

Coaches often use goal-setting to set standards of achievement for athletes of all ages. Coaching and teaching have many similarities.

Teachers develop lesson plans with activities that are tied to a curriculum. Classroom curriculum is developed age-appropriately for children within the classroom setting.

Coaches develop coaching sessions keeping in mind the age of the children who are being taught. Athletic sessions are designed based on principles of a game.

Ideally both coaches and teachers suit their activities to the age, physiological, and psychological development of their children learners.

It is assumed by many parents that elementary school teachers set goals for reading that are age and developmentally appropriate and yet challenging for students at various levels (a first grader would not be asked to read at the ninth grade level).

It is also assumed by many parents that youth coaches set goals for young athletes that are challenging and yet appropriate to the age levels of the children participating (a child of five years of age who has never played a particular sport would not be expected to be proficient or compete against a child who is 15).

Achievement measures are used by both teachers and coaches to determine if learners are mastering the desired objectives. Teachers may ask students to prepare book reports on material read, while coaches may track statistics of sport specific skill performance to determine if achievement is evident.

Training Coaches

Heavy emphasis is being placed on professional teacher training to ensure teachers are being equipped with the skills necessary to meet ever-increasing student achievement expectations in the classroom.

Though the level of certification is a long way from that of the teaching profession, issues related to sportsmanship, risk management, liability and performance expectations are driving many coaches to enhance their coaching training.

Too often it is assumed that anyone can coach. Well meaning parent coaches and former athletes, young and old who are new to coaching sometimes find themselves conducting training sessions based on their personal experiences rather than considering the appropriate content and methodology needed to instruct young athletes (children).

There are many recent illustrations in the media of coaches who have demonstrated poor judgment and behavior to the point of violence. One knock on sports today is that children are being driven to perform at younger and younger ages without consideration of the potential negative physiological and psychological consequences.

It is critical for coaches to obtain training beyond their personal experiences. Some coaches believe their athletic playing experience is enough to make them quality coaches. This is no longer the case.

Appropriate training can make a great difference. More than ever before there are licensing and training programs available for coaches. This training is relatively inexpensive, and for the value, well worth it.

Making the Connection

Coaches must be good teachers and role models. They must understand how children of various ages think and what motivates them to perform, beyond a tangible reward system (like a trophy or medal).

When hiring a coach for a camp business it is critical to know their experience and training as a coach. If you can find a good teacher who understands the correlation between teaching and coaching you generally will find an excellent candidate.

Sometimes the professions of teaching and coaching cross paths. Teachers enjoy coaching and coaches enjoy teaching.

This is because many of the traits necessary to be a good teacher translate into being a good coach. The way in which a teacher asks for students to line up to return to the classroom after recess, for example, is very similar to the way coaches will gather athletes together prior to returning to or beginning an exercise.

Good teachers have students practice the correct way to perform tasks. Good coaches do the same, correctly practicing athletic skills while reinforcing and reviewing.

Teachers understand the importance of tapping into the psychology of the child. They are aware of the influences that affect children, both positively and negatively. Good coaches do the same and attempt to utilize positive influences to translate information.

The younger the child, the more important the methodology to assist in the learning process. Books, movies and some television programs with positive messages are excellent mediums that can be used to transfer information to children.

Athletic games that grab the imagination of children and at the same time provide relevant skill training are excellent tools in training the very young athlete.

One example might be soccer dribbling. Soccer players need to be able to changes speed, change direction and keep their heads up while dribbling. The soccer coach creates an area of about 30 x 30 yards with cones for about 20 kids to participate in the exercise.

The children are brought together for explanation of the game. A huge cat (the coach) is hungry. The coach (cat) will chase the children and attempt to tag the mice (players) on their upper back.

Once tagged the children must remain frozen holding their soccer ball until another mouse (player) passes their cheese (soccer ball) under their legs. At this point the player is free again to dribble their soccer ball (cheese) in the area once again.

In this type of exercise the children are not thinking about the skill in dribbling, changing speeds, changing direction, keeping their heads up, they are running away from the big cat (the coach) and they are working on all the listed skills desired.

The desired outcome is being achieved by using some imagination.

• Specific skills in the teaching profession cross over into coaching. Here are some examples: Classroom management techniques, appropriate content, appropriate activities, reward systems, measurement tools, role modeling, communication, behavior consequence procedures and parental communication.

• Specific skills in the coaching profession cross over into teaching. Here are a few examples: motivation techniques, leadership roles, decision-making, friendship management, self-esteem enhancement, positive reinforcement, goal-setting, and creative techniques to deliver content.

At Team Soccer Direct we attempt to hire as many aspiring teachers or highly trained professional coaches as possible. We have found that teaching talents translate nicely into coaching talents and vice-versa. Watching a professional educator or coach at work makes for a rewarding learning experience.

I highly recommend observing a professional coach and teacher to all those who are working in the camp business.

Dan Kuntz and brother George Kuntz run Team Soccer Direct, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Dan is the head soccer coach at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks and George is head soccer coach at UC-Irvine.

Bryan BuchkoComment