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.

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