(BTW, great coaching quotes on Twitter @CoachMotto)
As a kid, I skated for hours on our slough, dodging the tips of cattails poking through the bumpy ice, pretending I was a hockey player. Stick handling, shooting, scoring, on my own or battling it out with one of my two sisters. Back then, being a hockey player wasn’t even a dream for me. I was totally oblivious to the fact that women didn’t play hockey in the 1970s and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. We were on a farm far from town, and not even my older brother played. But every chance we had, we were out there.
I guess the idea never really went away, and as the times changed so did the plausibility of actually getting to play. For real, I mean. The year I turned 33, I decided to take ‘hockey basics for women’ at the Gemini arena. I put hockey skates on for the first time. I bought myself a stick. And I was hooked. To make a long story short, I joined our local women’s team and played for five years. I sucked. Like, I was really, really not very good. There is no doubt that I probably looked like a slightly less animated version of poor Bambi when he first steps onto the ice, with a gangly baby giraffe style of skating, and eternally grateful there is no video evidence of my foray onto the ice. But when I am old and grey, these will be some of my favorite memories, hands-down.
I think there are a lot of connections to learning there: student choice, engagement, resilience, passion, lifelong learning…but this post wasn’t going to be about me lol. Getting back on track here!
Last night I was watching my son play in a Midget (16 to 18 year olds) playoff game. I was trying to pay attention to the action, but I found myself distracted by the opposition coach yelling at the referee. Canadian hockey. What a shocker, right? He yelled “Offside!” every time the puck crossed the blue line. Every. Single. Time. I learned enough in those five years of playing to understand the infractions and penalties; sometimes it was offside and was called, and sometimes it wasn’t, but he yelled regardless. He yelled about slashing, and tripping, and every time there was a body check. At one point, if I could have found a pen in my purse, I was tempted to keep track of every criticism he yelled onto the ice. Because it struck me that he was spending so much time looking for, and calling for penalties, that he was doing very little to no coaching.
As we have been working through our heritage fair projects in grade seven, I’ve tried to be cognizant about doing exponentially more coaching than critiquing with students. If I am only concerned about pointing out what is wrong with the project’s writing or design or spelling, then I’m a copy editor and not much different than that coach. But if I am thinking LIKE a coach, then there is side-by-side learning…I am asking questions, giving feedback, helping students to identify their own errors, and encouraging, encouraging, encouraging. One of the things that I really like about the structure of our progress report comments, is that it asks me as a teacher to identify student strengths, area(s) for improvement, and THE NEXT STEPS to get there. When I was learning how to skate again at 33, I didn’t have a lot of strengths and there was a giant list of things I needed to improve. The crash course I took was fantastic, but it was my teammates whose continual on-the-spot, on-the-ice advice helped me with the next steps which really allowed me to grow. "Stay along the boards and be ready for the pass...when the puck drops, drop it back...skate in at an angle for the check...get in front of the net and keep your stick on the ice!" With another playoff game tonight, I’ll be cheering for my son and hoping for a win, but I’ll likely also be drawn to watching whether the coaches coach, or just criticize, too. Go Bruins!
"It's amazing how a life can turn around with some encouragement, some support, and someone willing to say, 'I believe you CAN do what you've set your mind on doing.'" Michael Oher
Kiitos-Hiy Hiy-Thanks for reading!
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