Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Coaching is Teaching"

Last Thursday night I attended a speech by a guest speaker here on campus. The guest speaker was Cincinnati Bengal’s Offensive Line and Assistant Head Coach Paul Alexander. The talk that he gave was titled “Coaching is Teaching.” I was surprised at how many people attended the talk, and it was very interesting to hear from a graduate of SUNY Cortland who had made it to one of the highest positions out there in his field.

Most of the talk was about coaching, as the title would indicate, but I found this useful because I plan on continuing my coaching career once I am done with college. The first thing Coach Alexander said that caught my attention was when he mentioned that coaching is the only classroom that you can be fired for having students fail. He also reminded us that there is no tenure in coaching and you can be fired at anytime from the position. While this mainly implies more towards college and professional coaches it is still something to keep in mind at the high school level. Also I don’t know where my career will take me, so I may end up teaching and coaching at the college level.

Another point that Alexander made was “to be a great coach, you have to coach the great players.” Too many times, at all levels, coaches only focus their work on their lower players to catch them up with the other players. Often the top skilled players are neglected and are often bored at practices, so it is important to continue to push them to improve their game as well. This can also be used as a physical education teacher, because you don’t want students to be bored because you are at a lower skill level than they are. That could end up turning them off to physical activities.

He mentioned skilled players again when he told us that you should watch what the skilled players are doing because they are most likely doing things right. He also said not to change what they’re doing to the accepted ways. A great point he made about observing players during games is to take all emotion out of your head when watching. That will allow you to make corrections without having your own personal judgment for the player clouding your mind. This will increase the success of your team.

He did mention education briefly. He said he learned from his mother to not smile until Thanksgiving, which I found comical. He also mentioned that no matter what the situation (classroom, team, etc.) there will always be the students or athletes that cause trouble, and that you cant always just send them to the principals office, you need to learn how to deal with them.

The most interesting thing he mentioned was how much music has made him a better coach. This struck a chord with me because I have always been involved with music my whole life. Some things he learned from music was to work at a different pitch to project your voice over all the other noises. He mentioned that there was only one Bass in the orchestra, yet it still is heard. This will be useful in the phys ed class as well as coaching. He also learned from music to work slow while practicing to perfect the technicalities.

He also mentioned that you need to get into a mental state before a game or even a class, just like a musician has to before a performance. He stressed that mistakes will happen, and that no one has ever played a “perfect game” in football or in life. Finally he said never focus on the audience, focus on the music or what you’re doing.

The best part of the talk, in my opinion, was at the end when he talked about composure and showed the video of Lindsey Jacobellis from the 2006 Olympics (where she wiped out showing off and lost the gold medal). I wished he would have stressed it a little more, but the point got across to me.

Overall I think it was a good talk and I learned a few things that I can take and apply to how I teach and how I coach.

Friday, February 13, 2009

First Day at St. Mary's

Wednesday was our lab’s first day at St. Mary’s Catholic School here in Cortland working with the after school program kids. The best way to sum it up was: it was an experience. Our group gathered in the back entrance to the school as the kids were being dismissed from school and beginning to check in for the after school program. Some of the kids were excited to see college kids there again, while others began trying to tease us and act like they didn’t want us there. It was funny because with the later group you could see the smiles on their faces when they turned, reassuring us that they were happy we were there.

When we entered the gym we got into our smaller groups and were assigned to a lab assistant and an age group of children. The group that we would be working with that day was made up of kindergarten and first grade kids. We were assigned to the gym first and began playing games such as Sharks and Minnows, Tag (with other locomotor skills such as hoping, galloping, etc.) Crabwalk tag, hula-hoop chain race, and others.

The kids we were working with were off-the-wall, but I don’t really blame them. After being kept inside all day in a classroom, wouldn’t you want to just run around and be loud and crazy after school? I think it was intimidating to some other (college) students but I had no problem jumping right in and helping the lab assistants and playing the games with the kids.

Sure there were a few problems, some kids didn’t want to play anymore, or wanted to play certain activities (one kid asked me probably 20 times in less than an hour if I would play basketball with him) but I found that if I acted really excited about the activity we were doing as a group they would give it a shot. There was also a couple of “trouble-makers” but with patients I even got through that. Looking back now I wish I would have handled them differently, but that’s what’s nice about this class, I can reflect and learn how to handle different situations that will come up when I begin to teach on my own.

After a while it was time for our group to switch with the older group downstairs in the cafeteria. So we stayed with our group and went downstairs as they ate a snack and then played games, built things with legos, colored, and did other activities. This part I liked the most because I got to talk to the kids, and learn things about them like their name. I started by playing Connect-4 with one kid. Another, kindergartener came over and wanted to play. It was amazing to see the difference in fine motor skills between two kids that were separated by only a year or two. I then went and played a board game with another kid. I felt like I was playing the game in the movie “Big Daddy” because the kid was making up the rules and always beating me. Finally, I sat down at the legos and helped them build pirate ships.

We went back upstairs for a little and because there really wasn’t enough kids to play games we had free time. I finally got to play basketball with the kid who asked before and was amazed at his skill for such a young kid. He was past the other kids in skill level by far. Another kid began to play and would only shoot using an underhand two-handed toss, so I worked with him on his regular basketball shot. We ended the afternoon by playing with the large parachute as a group. It was fun, and brought me back to my childhood and Phys Ed class. We ended with a cheer (1…2…3…St Mary’s Stars!) and we were done.

To say I was exhausted after is an understatement. But I did really enjoy it. I was glad I got involved early with working with the kids and didn’t just sit back. I’m sure next week will be just as much fun.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dodge, Dip, Duck, Dive, and Dodge.... Right out of P.E. Class

Dodgeball, yup, we've all played it. They even made a great comedy movie about it. But does it have a spot in K-12 Physical Education classes in schools? In my opinion it doesn't. Sure the game teaches great skills such as moving, balance, throwing, dodging, and even catching, but there are better physical activities that are better suited for the P.E. class.

One of the main problems with dodge ball is that most kids do not like to play it. These kids are often the kids that need physical activities the most too. They are the slower, less agile kids that are often not as comfortable with their physical abilities and because of this they are looked at as the "weaker" students in the game.

Now think back to when you played dodgeball... If you were one of the skilled players, you probably remember who you went after first in the game. It was most likely the "weaker" players. Because this is an accepted part of dodgeball, there's no wonder that these kids do not want to participate, or do not enjoy Phys Ed class when games like this are played.

Overweight and obesse children is a major problem today. To do this we need to find activities that kids will not only enjoy to participate in but also activities that they can continue to participate in as they grow older. Dodgeball is not one of these activities.

Don't get me wrong, I do think there is a place for Dodgeball as a physical activity. Afterschool groups dedicated to dodgeball and even touranments on the weekend or after school is fine. This allows students to choose to participate in dodgeball and doesnt force them to play just to get their participation points in class.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Journey into Physical Education

I figured for my first post I should explain how I got here, to P.E. Sorry it's kind of long, but it's been a long journey here.

I was a typical kid growing up. As a younger kid I played as many sports as I could. I sometimes wonder how, or more importantly, why my parents drove me from practice to practice, game to game. I remember a few times where I was have a basketball game a half an hour from home and have to rush to a hockey game or practice back in my hometown. But I think they realized I loved sports, so they did it, and I appreciate it.

When I got into high school I decided to focus on one sport, soccer. When it was the "off-season" I played indoor through the winter and spring, played in outdoor leagues over the summer. I became obsessed with the sport, which I still am.

When it was time to decide on a college I had been leaning towards athletic training but decided to go for Physical Therapy because I thought it left me with more options. I enrolled in a small college in Buffalo, NY because they had a soccer team I could play on and wanted me to play. The Doctorate of Physical Therapy program was an intense program with no breaks really. I also realized that I didn't like PT. I decided to transfer home to a community college until I realized what I wanted to do.

While I went to community college I went through way too many majors. I started in biology just because I had the science credits. I thought maybe about becoming a doctor but couldn't really see myself doing that. I decided to go for science education but me? teach labs for a living? I don't think so. I kept the education idea and decided to switch majors into a history education program.

I played a year of soccer at the community college but couldn't play a second because I had used two years of eligibility. I wanted to continue to do something with soccer and it just happened that my old high school had an opening as the modified boy's soccer coach. I had been helping my former varsity coach the previous season while playing at the community college and he suggested that I apply for it. The first year I co-coached with a friend of mine from high school, and the second year they decided they only wanted one coach, and selected me.

The athletic director must have been happy with my performance (either that or she was desperate) because she offered me another job coaching 7th grade girl's basketball. I hadn't played basketball since I was in 8th grade so it was a learning experience for me. Not only was I coaching girls for the first time, but I had to study the game to become the best coach I could. I don't take much credit for it, but the girls didn't lose a game that season.

Also during the summer for the past two years I have worked at a sports camp for my church. It has been a great experience for me. Many of the kids that go to the camp are from the Boy's and Girl's club so it gave me an opportunity to work with kids from many different backgrounds and with many different abilities. I always found a way to keep things fun at the camp, while still being professional and responsible for my duties.

Through coaching both teams and working at the camp, I learned that I loved working with kids and loved being active. It was very clear to me that History education wasn't for me. So I decided to start taking classes that would transfer into a P.E. program. Since I made that decision I have never looked back, and never second guessed myself.

So here I am. This is my first semester at SUNY Cortland and so far I really like the school and the P.E. program. I can't wait to get out there and working with kids. While this blog was required for a class, I think I can make it more than that. Hopefully this will be a way for me to stay connected to friends and family both at home, as well as those living away. It will also be a way to get across that P.E. is more than just "gym class." It is a changing profession and I will be ready for that change. But I'll get into that more in the future...