What Makes a Great Teacher… Coach

I enjoy reading The Atlantic on a fairly regular basis. While it is always a mental commitment to work my way through the articles, it is rare that I am left un-rewarded for my efforts. While the magazine is filled with critical commentary on national and international issues of politics, science, and business, I always manage to find some wisdom that applies to sport, exercise, and player development.

I just concluded reading Ripley’s “What Makes a Great Teacher?” Its insights speak to a credible and focused approach to help students fulfill their intellectual potential. As stated early in the article, “The secrets to great teaching have seemed more like alchemy than science, a mix of motivational mumbo jumbo and misty-eyed tales of inspiration and dedication.”  These preconceived notions are part of the foolishness that leaves education (and athletic development) struggling to best serve students (and athletes). Yes, there is an art to great teaching, but behind it is science and clear patterns of effective teaching behaviors. These thoughts certainly extend to the playing field and are ideas that are critical if regional and national player development models are to succeed. To paraphrase from the article – putting it into a sporting context – “The sports organization/team/league, does not matter as much as which adult stands in front of the athlete.”

If you have a chance, check out the whole article. In the meantime, the following are a few patterns of behaviors that are evident in great teachers… relayed to you with great coaching in mind:

– Great coaches set big goals for their athletes
– Great coaches perpetually look for ways to improve their effectiveness
– Great coaches encourage students and their families into the developmental process
– Great coaches maintain focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning
– Great coaches plan exhaustively and purposefully – for the next day or the year ahead – by working backward from the desired outcome
– Great coaches work relentlessly, refusing submit to the menaces of budgetary shortfalls and bureaucracy

These are paraphrases of some recent Teach for America research. Look close at the coaches that truly impact youth and develop great athletes, I suspect you’ll see a commitment to the tenets from above.

Cite: Ripley, A. What makes a great teacher?  In The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2010, pp. 58-67.


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