Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Edison on Coaching

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.

Thomas Edison

Each day for lacrosse practice I produce a practice plan and have a quote at the bottom. The overt objective is that if the boys can repeat the quote, I'll take some running off at the end of practice. The covert objective is that through the quotes I can get the boys to think about what we need to do, where we stand as a team, and what it will take to get there.

Ol' Tom would've made a great coach. I really like his quote above because he puts it plainly what it takes to succeed. First: work. But not just work for work's sake - purposeful work. We hear it over and over again about how the most successful of us put the most work in.

For coaches, his second sentence lays out the responsibilities of a coach and the responsibilities of the players when pursuing a goal ("a product or accomplishment")

Coaches' Responsibilities

1. Forethought
2. System
3. Planning

Coaches' and Players' Responsibility

1. Intelligence - be ready to think and adapt to the game and personnel

Players' Responsibilities

1. Honest purpose
2. Perspiration

My job as coach, as leader, is to set a goal, make a plan, and be smart enough to adapt to factors as they arise. The players' need to be committed to the team, be prepared to work hard (to sweat a lot), and adapt to the game as it unfolds.

Finally, we can have the kids run around, work hard, but if it is only to get excercise that is not enough. That is seeming to do. Athletics should encompass so much more and it does, when done right. It is like the lab of life:

How will you react to failure? To success?

What if you're not the fastest, strongest, or most skilled athlete on the field? What does that mean for you as a team member? How will you find your niche?

What if you are the biggest, fastest, strongest athlete on the field? How will you own that role?

What do you have to do to support your teammates in order for the team to win? Do you want the team to win or do you want to be recognized? How does that make your teammates feel?

Coaching a team may be the best example of solid pedagogical teaching strategies at work. But in this classroom, the content is character development. The buzz phrase of education currently is "21st century skills." Some of those skills, depending on who you are reading, include collaboration, analysis, synthesis, respect and relationships, creativity, symphony, and on and on. What we see is that team sports has been teaching these skills long before we were ever confronted with the 21st century. Edison knew what it would take to prepare a group to use the skills we now champion so loudly. Who knows, Ol' Lightbulb Tom could have been speaking to his soccer team!

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