I started coaching in 1994. Basically, I showed up at a parochial school near where I was going to college to get more information about a possible coaching position. When I arrived, the man in charge handed me a clip board, a whistle and a group of 6th grade girls. There was no walking away once they told me their names. I coached that same set of girls, all through my college years, in volleyball and basketball and we were fierce. We rarely lost, in fact, I think we might have been undefeated for years. I’m lucky enough to still be facebook friends with one of the girls, who is now 32, married and has a lovely life.
The job was unpaid with terrible hours, but I could not have been more committed to that group of kids. When one is in college, it is easy to become consumed in the most self-absorbed lifestyle. This connection to these girls and their families was an anchor. Form that point on, I was hooked and continued coaching sports in Kansas and Arizona until 2008. When I moved to SLA and Philly, there were already coaches in place and I found myself doing a coaching of a different sort, and I built the Debate program at SLA. I enjoyed it, it was definitely coaching, we were a force to be reckoned with, but it wasn’t the same thing.
When I started this long term sub job at Alpine in Flagstaff, I tried to tell myself that I wouldn’t get too entangled, over committed, over involved, as is my nature. I needed to balance out the work I was committed to outside of Flagstaff while doing a good job in Flagstaff. Who was I kidding? Within the first few weeks I found myself agreeing to be a basketball coach. Now I won’t go on a rant here about being busy, but let’s just say that my dance card has been overfull for awhile. But there I was, saying yes to this. I enlisted the student teacher, who was in the classroom next to mine, to be a co-coach, so at least I had a partner to work with and balance the time commitment.
Coaching is a thing unto itself. It is not the same as playing… or teaching, what works on the court can translate in the classroom, but not in the ways that I think many people assume. The rapport that can be built amongst the players and then between the players and the coaches is unique in its quickness and effectiveness. The day after the first game, I had 15 boys in my classroom wanting to talk about their games… not just my own players, but the other boys. They wanted to make a connection over a shared experience, that had nothing to do with Social Studies. However, when I asked those boys to get back to work after some shenanigans in my classroom, they responded in a way that was different than before. The connection, the shared experience matters.
I know I’ve written this many times before, but the strong relationships that can be built between the people in the classroom are paramount. Every time I coach a team, I remember just how powerful that dynamic is. I could not be more thrilled that the student teacher I am working with, is getting it as well. We were both a little giddy after our win on Friday. I could see that she had caught the coaching bug. Between the two of us we have played/coached for something like 40 years… and we still can’t get enough.
Chris Lehmann started coaching, again, after a hiatus while he got SLA up and running. I’ll admit, I was a little frustrated with this decision because he didn’t have the time for it. He was too busy. After his first few practices and games, I stopped being frustrated because I could see how much the experience was a value add to his day to day existence. Truth be told, when the email came out asking for coaches in Flagstaff, I wanted that same value add in my day to day life again. I’m glad that I’ve been able to steal a little bit of that awesomeness while I am in Flagstaff. Here’s to knowing that being busy isn’t a reason to ignore the things that make us more human, more fulfilled and engaged in living a life.