Coaches are teachers and teachers are coaches. While students strengthen their minds by learning and studying a particular subject, athletes are working to strengthen their bodies while perfecting the understanding of their sport.
The job description of each profession has changed and there's no denying that. While most of us have learned to adapt to the change in this generation of young people, the structures in place overseeing our institutions have only changed by drawing harsher lines between decision makers and subordinates.
As we each wade through the waters of student issues on the field and in the classroom, problems of culture disruption, heightened anxiety over failure, weak or non-existent abilities to cope with adversity and a general absence of independent problem solving, our job description is no longer an ideal match with our duties. With every development seminar, workshop or staff meeting, our coaching and teaching population is constantly bombarded with new methods passed down from our mother organizations like the NCAA, NAIA, JUCO, NFHSA, and Boards of Education.
When staff meetings feel more like briefings or even tense scoldings, we are frequently left out of the very conversations that lead to the crafting of policies which directly affect us and our constituents. When our voices are muted in this process by a disconnected hierarchy, we are missing the boat on creating better, healthier and more vibrant working environments.
As coaches and teachers, we continue to bob and weave to find creative solutions to make us successful on the fields and in the classrooms. However, even more crucial to both professions today, is our ability to manage people, understand their behaviors and work within blanket restrictions while attempting to confront an ever-changing landscape of new issues.
As a coach, days or months of analysis on the ideal ways to communicate and instruct a specific athlete can be among the most rewarding and taxing parts of the job. Similarly, the teacher who works weeks, semesters, or even years to determine the most effective way to reach a particular student understands this. These are just a few of the countless tasks invisible to those who judge us on our final outcome.
Of course, our generation of leadership is certain that we always "had it harder" and ultimately many of us believe we were far more emotionally, mentally and physically resilient than the generation of today. Regardless of whether we are correct, whether you are old school or new school, we are at an all-time high for risk at every turn. The professional parameters we knew as masters of our sport or teachers of our subjects have not necessarily shifted, but rather expanded to accommodate a new environment inclusive of endless do overs.
As leaders in education and sport, forced issuance of multiple second chances or inability to consistently support the enforcement of basic standards may exist for the following reasons:
1. It's your choice. As a coach, perhaps you are unable to prioritize the needs of the team culture over the athlete's strength in the sport or record. As a teacher, it's simply easier to let the student win.
2. It's not your choice. Internal pressure has sent you the message that your institution would rather have unhappy coaches or teachers than unhappy athletes or students.
3. You know the drill. You have been advised repeatedly to avoid issuing any true consequence because backlash externally equals more work for the institution.
4. What happens in your team/class is seen as your problem. While you are well aware that failure to hold student-athletes accountable feels detrimental to your team or that you are doing the student a disservice, it is a comfortable position for your institution because you have to deal with it on a daily basis, not them.
5. It's too draining to keep fighting. You are exhausted from having to explain, meet, and document only to have that timeless conversation that always ends with "because this is the way things are now."
6. Job security. The looming feeling that your job is vulnerable if you do something that displeases your athlete, your student or their parents. This keeps you from making the decisions you know to be right and it drains your soul.
With every flex to the standards there is a new kink in the culture armor. As we burn down endless hours of meetings, paperwork, conferences, emails and protocol dedicated to the one or two poorly-behaved athletes, or students who fail to supply effort, the remaining team or class members suffer with less time dedicated to them. While I have heard countless coaches say athletes are softer today than a decade ago, I am certain they are sharper than we were in forming their perceptions - no matter how premature or misinformed. The current generation of students and athletes are less likely to take basic information without follow-up questions as they require additional information and immediacy.
When considering generational make-up, the steady loss of consistent standards by us as coaches or teachers, the increase in exceptions by administrators, and the loopholes identified by students or athletes, we have all but sent team rules or educational standards up in flames because everything is negotiable.
Good coaches recognize their player's potential to help the team but they are just as adept in identifying the player's potential to hurt the team. Good teachers recognize students who genuinely make an effort. And those that make an effort, but continue to struggle, are typically rewarded with mutual effort by that teacher.
However, good teachers are also just as keen at identifying students looking to abuse the forgiveness of our new system. We must recognize our good teachers and support them.
However, much like teachers with problem students and no support, coaches are exhausted from this treatment which exists across every division at every level in every sport regardless of gender. If you oversee, support or believe in a coach or teacher, I would like you to consider the following.
If every coach walked out, the teachers of sport would not exist. If every teacher walked out, the sport of teaching would go extinct. Some of our greatest leaders in sports and education today have quitting on their minds with many years left on their time clocks.
Send this article to a coach or teacher today if you support the mission of exposing our next generation to consistent standards and accountability.
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