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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why You Coach (Dear Katie V3 #13)

Dear Katie,

About 20 years ago, I ran into a college buddy of mine who was a basketball coach. He had the recent honor of spending an hour of one on one time (talking, not playing) with who many believe to be the greatest coach in any sport of all time, John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach and winner of 10 national championships over a 12 year stretch.

What did he talk about?  Why Wooden employed the 1-4 High Post Offense?  Pivotal decisions he made during the course of a championship game?  Insights in how to train and preparation?

None of these things.

My friend said he didn't talk about basketball at all.

Coach Wooden talked about his players.  What they were like as boys who played for him and the pride he had for the men they had become.  He even played a tape for my friend of a song performed by one of his players.  Wooden closed his eyes and my buddy noticed a tear rolling down his cheek.

They were not just basketball players that were 
cogs in the UCLA championship machine.
They were human beings.  
And what made Wooden such a great coach 
is that he emphasized that.

(In fact the basketball great Kareem Abdul Jabbar -not his birth name, he changed after he became a pro to reflect his conversion to Islam- has said that there were only two people he respected too much to ever correct if they called him by his birth name Lew Alcindor, his Mom, and Coach Wooden)

Envision your class as your team.  In a digital age where students are becoming identified for their test scores and where companies are rushing in to discover ways to monetize them, we as teachers must take extra care for the children placed under our charge.

We must stand in the gap for the sake of the students.
 They are not automatons but children 
to be nurtured and guided 
because it is for their best
Not because it will increase their test scores.

Yesterday, I was at a friends house and I ran into some residents of the town where I coach junior high soccer.  They recognized my face from a picture that was taken of our team for winning the county championship.  They said, "That must have been some great team you had this year."

My response that I said with a smile remembering those kids:

They were a bunch of great boys, 
even if they didn't win the championship.

Uncle Kevin

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