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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Benefits of Playing on a Team (Dear Katie V2 #18)

Dear Katie,

My college history professor and advisor always encouraged us to be "Renaissance Men and Women".   He wanted us to excel in many fields, not just academic.  He never wanted us holed up in the library for all hours studying away while allowing the college experience to pass us by.  He wanted us to be musicians, artists, and athletes as well as academics (and trust me, Dr. Vos placed a HIGH value on academics).  He just didn't want us to be one-dimensional.


Often I have heard how music education helps students in academics, or more specifically, the playing of an instrument.  I believe that is true, and we have encouraged your little cousins to take up an instrument by adding a piano to our house's list of furniture.  However, there is another activity I will be encouraging your cousins to pursue that I have found tremendously helpful in life.  I want them to play team sports.


As I look at activities that I have been involved with that have helped make me the man I am today, one that keeps coming to mind is the many seasons I played baseball that continued through college, then as a member of a softball team (as well as soccer and basketball teams I played on before high school).  Being on a team helps you to focus on improving your skills, encourage others in improving their skills,  as well as teaches you something very important, learning to sacrifice for the good of the team.


Here are just some ways that I believe playing team sports has helped me as a teacher:


1) Striving to be your best


Vince Lombardi once said:



"Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. 
But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

Playing on a sports team helped me to focus on doing my very best as a teacher in the classroom.  It taught me their is satisfaction in "playing the game well.

2) Athletes have to learn to balance academics and athletics.  

The stereotype for the "jock" is that we don't care about school.  Your grandfather would not allow me to "not care about school".  I played on middle school and high school teams with two twin brothers who were two of the top students in my graduating class.  Many of my high school friends were athletes and also in the top 25% of the graduates in our class.  There are kids who don't do well school in any co-curricular activities, I think athletes are just called out on it more, because in my experience, many of the scholars of my school played along side me.

I have seen both as a student and teacher students given breaks such as no homework the night of the play or concert that athletes NEVER receive.  I often came back from games exhausted and missed 3-4 hours of time I could be studying or doing homework, yet 



I never used an extra-inning game 
as an excuse for not doing my homework, 
I got it done.

Being an athlete has helped me balance the many hats that I wear, teacher, father, husband, son, coach, etc.


3) It prepared me to interact with people from varied backgrounds and to cooperate with them.

The best teams I have played on had great team chemistry.  You need to learn to get along in order to achieve your goal.  Saying what you think and compromise are two important skills to getting this done and were sharpened on the athletic fields.  This is not only important among your fellow teachers, but in the classroom as well.

4) It allowed me to see the benefits of sacrificing personal glory for the good of the team.

When I teach, I try to see the WHOLE field of the school.  When I played baseball, I wanted to always get a hit, but there were times that the coach wanted me to bunt.  Bunting does not improve your personal batting average, but may give the team another win. In teaching, "bunting" means giving up class time to help teachers in Math and English improve their students' scores on test since their livelihoods now depend upon it.  It means allowing students to miss your class for a band lesson.  However, this sacrifice does not work if you cannot expect the same sacrifice back when you need it.

5) You will meet and spend time with some great people.

The people I was closest to in school, the people who always had my back, the people who put up with my immaturity the most, were the people I practiced and fought with in between the lines of the ball field.  And I felt the same way about them.  There is something wonderful about being on a team in terms of the relationships that you build that last a lifetime.  And I see the people I work with at school in the same ways I see the guys who walked out of the locker room to the diamond.

Join a team.  It is a great experience.  But if you're going to play the game, play it well.


But what do I know, I'm just a "dumb jock".


Uncle Kevin

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