Why Good Teaching Trumps Good Coaching

Both teachers and coaches have luxuries that make the other envious.  Coaches wish they had the endless stream of people to work with, a guaranteed influx of new bodies.  Teachers wish they had kids that came in seeking help to get better at something.

Coaches and players share a passion (or at least a liking) of a game.  There is a built-in commonness, a mutual desire for the same ouput : better players.  Coaches are handed a group that want something very specific, or at the very least want to try.

Athletes are all about participating.  They want to do and be shown.  They LOVE training and practicing and tend to give their best efforts every time.  Their competing for spots and playing time.


photo credit: jimkielbaso.com

Teachers don’t have that same sort of selection process to determine who they work with.  The vast majority of students HAVE to be there, not WANT to.  And they act accordingly.

photo credit:Getty images, fit.webmd.com

(At least these girls dress down).

Teachers are in the business of people, not athletes. Before they do anything they’ve got to get students to PARTICIPATE.  Conjuring motivation is a lot harder than pinpointing it.  As self-centered as teenagers are (and rightfully should be) the last thing they want to do is look intrinsically at themselves.  The second to last thing they want is to be UNSUCCESSFUL at one more thing, especially out in the open. If an attempt is given, it’s generally the weakest possible.  It saves the ego when they fail.

I have been a teacher and a coach, and did both for five years.  Performed simultaneously, coaching was by far the more enjoyable of the two.   I loved the breaking apart and fanning out the slivers so a broader picture of the game could be synthesized.  I loved the questions and the interest.  I loved practicing in the rain.  I loved twenty girls trying to outwork each other and never ever let the other down.  An enthusiasm of teaching paired with an enthusiastic set of learners is the most exciting thing on earth. There is a  reciprocal excitement about BEING A PART OF SOMETHING SPECIAL.  And that specialness spreads itself from the practices and games to the countless hours of preparation.  I credit everything to the group that stumbled into my lap.  When the people changed my heart did too.  But when it was good it was transformatively good.  It seeped in and intoxicated everything.  There is so much satisfaction in seeing immediate and consistent progress.  The communal expectation of improvement is exhilarating.


With such an incredible coaching experience,  why would I argue that teaching has superior virtues?


Because teaching is harder.


You have to change a kid’s beliefs.  You have to shift the way they think about themselves and the world, and you have to do it implicitly and systematically.  Your plans revolve around keeping their interest more so than developing their skills.  You have to build them up as people so they buy in to what you have to offer.  Your work is first and foremost making better human beings.

Good teaching trumps good coaching because of the product.  Whether or not students believe in their potential, teachers want it for them.  We assume they are good.  Coaches develop drills and hold tryouts for kids to prove they are good.  Neither is wrong.  One is just full of acceptance while the other is prized for segregation.  While coaches are interested in fully developing a piece, teachers engage the whole.  We pick up and dust off all the best bits coaches accidentally throw away, because we’re familiar with the imagined potential there.


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