Sunday, July 27, 2008

Playing and coaching

Besides teaching, I've also coached in the city for the last five years. The job is a huge time commitment and sometimes difficult and political, but I love it. I get to a form a different kind of rapport with students, and, arguably, teach just as many, if not more, life skills than I can just in a classroom.

It's easy to forget, though, that yelling things from the sides is a lot different from doing it on your own between those white lines.

This summer, and today in particular, I was reminded of that. This has been a sporting summer for me, complete with more softball - especially more competitive softball - than I've ever played. My Sunday morning all-male league out in Perry Hall is very competitive: guys slide and get bloody, shout curse words at each other, and meticulously strategize about field placement. It's so much fun and, really, the first time I'd played absolutely competitive sports since high school.

I've had a decent season, but today I ended it badly - a horrible mental mistake on the basepaths, five at-bats without driving the ball once like I wanted to, etc. It was a good reminder that playing and coaching are a lot different. It was also something that I think will inform my coaching. It's good for a coach to get out there on the field as an athlete, and feel everything that a player feels and have to engage in the mental preparation that the players have to engage in. I mean, I live and breathe the games I coach, but it's not the same as actually being out there. And playing like this is something that I'm positive will inform my coaching, reminding me that playing the game well takes lots of very vocal support from the sidelines, support that I'd like to concentrate on providing more.

It's kind of like teaching English. I remember reading in a Jim Burke book once that one of his interview questions for new teachers is what they are reading. He says that if they answer mysteries or magazines, then he just doesn't hire them. We're asking students to engage in the analysis of literature, and we should be doing the same in our own lives. This is one reason that we have a Department Book Club in our English Department (something that has, unfortunately, gone by the wayside a bit, but hopefully will rebuild itself this year... I'm going to do my best), and one reason why it feels so good to spend so much time analyzing Shakespeare this summer. It's really my first formal study of literature since college, and, wow, it sure feels great, and reminds me what it's like to be a student again. Just like playing intense softball reminds me what it's like to be an athlete again. It feels good and makes me a better teacher and coach.

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