Let us praise great high school coaches.
If you teach long enough in the public schools, you will be fortunate enough to come across some great individuals who coach sports teams all the while teaching these very players lessons of life and success even in the wake of defeat.
Yes, there are instances when coaches and teachers have done terrible things. People like Dennis Hastert and Jerry Sandusky remind us that no profession is immune from violating the innocent. There are cops, doctors, lawyers, lawmakers, professional athletes, etc. who have committed injustices.
But there are cops, doctors, lawyers, lawmakers, professional athletes, and others who are deserving of our praise and respect not just because of what they do professionally, but how they perform their duties.
And I want to praise great coaches, especially the ones I work with.
When winning seems to be the only criteria by which many measure the success of a team, a great coach understands that winning is much more than a final score. That “W” in the “Win” column is the culmination of a process by which young people are pushed, nurtured, taught, challenged, and built. That same process is the part rarely seen in the media or by the fans.
In a world where statistics are obsessed over by not only fans and players, but also parents and scouts, great coaches see that as secondary to the chemistry of the team. When people squabble over playing time and egos, great coaches see that team is more important than one individual.
When a team wins, great coaches give the players credit. When a team loses, great coaches look at themselves as the first to be accountable and find ways to help the team reflect on those losses. Why? It’s part of the process.
Great coaches see the team as more powerful than the sum of its parts put together because building a community where a common goal drives the participants is part of that process of being successful. Great coaches praise players in public, encourage loudly, and practice discipline and leave constructive criticism behind closed doors in locker rooms, practice, and dugouts.
Great coaches care about their players as students. It is quite often how I tell people who do not teach that so many players perform better academically while in season than out of season. The time management and the added incentive to keep playing helps many students make the needed commitment to academics and family.
Great coaches have probably kept so many students out of trouble because when spending time being mentored and coached negates opportunities to create conflict.
Let us not forget that most of these great coaches are teachers in the same schools where they coach. They take care of our students in so many ways. And if they were actually paid an actual living wage for the time they spent preparing players, mowing fields, cleaning courts, talking to media and parents, and other unseen duties, they would be walking home with a much larger paycheck.
If you want to witness what the effect that a great coach can have on a school and its surrounding community, then go to the games, see the support, watch the passion of the players, and see the pride of the student sections.
And pay for the ticket. Any money made from a high school athletic contest goes straight back into an investment in our kids.