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Teaming Up with Teachers

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

When someone mentions communicating with classroom teachers, the first thing that probably comes to mind is grades. Are all of your student-athletes achieving as they should? Are they eligible to play?

Supporting your players’ academic work and checking on their progress is important, but did you realize that there are many other good reasons for coaches and teachers to communicate? Together, you and your players’ teachers can be a powerful team, ensuring the best for kids. Below are some scenarios where connecting with your classroom counterpart can benefit you, the teacher, and most importantly, your student-athletes.

An athlete is acting out. When a student-athlete is causing a disruption in class, his or her teacher may turn to you for help. As a coach, you often have a great deal of influence over your players. Simply taking the athlete aside and making a couple of comments after practice might do the trick. If the problem requires a little more intervention, discuss your expectations with the athlete and also listen to what he or she has to say. Keep the dialogue going and continue to touch base with the teacher.

There is trouble at home. Classroom teachers have about 50 minutes of contact with students each day, but as a coach, you probably have two or three times this amount. Because of this increased interaction, you may be the first to know about a difficult situation at home or a challenge in a player’s personal life that is affecting their behavior in the classroom. When this happens, you can reach out to your student-athletes’ teachers and alert them, allowing all the adults involved to support the student-athlete.

Missed work or tests. When an athlete needs extra help or tutoring, or needs to take a test he or she missed, you and the teacher can put your heads together to come up with a workable plan. While it is important for players to be involved in practices leading up to a game, it is more important that they first take care of their academic responsibilities. This means that you have to be understanding, supportive, and receptive in order to find a suitable solution.

Monitoring grades. And of course, you do want to stay in touch with teachers to monitor the academic progress of your athletes. You should encourage and support your players’ classroom efforts, but be careful. It is never okay to ask a teacher for special treatment of an athlete. This crosses a line from being concerned and involved to being inappropriate.

Making an effort to work more closely with your players’ teachers this year can pay dividends. Keep the following suggestions in mind for the most effective communication.

1.    Prioritize academics. The first key to a great relationship with teachers is to understand and respect their role. Academics are the reason schools exist and students attend. Athletics are important, but academics hold the highest priority.

2.    Remember your common goal. Both you and your players’ teachers want the same thing—a great outcome for the kids you work with. Make an effort to develop a two-way, open, polite, and sharing relationship, keeping in mind that you have the same end goal. You and the teachers of your players are teammates, and you can best accomplish the goal of helping students and athletes when you work together.

3.    Think and plan ahead. As with most aspects of coaching (and teaching), this approach usually yields the best results. Waiting until the night before a player has an exam to explore ideas for extra help will have little value. Identify potential problems early and come up with solutions as soon as possible. And remember that all teachers and coaches are extremely busy, necessitating as much lead time as possible.

4.    Student-athletes first. In the heat of a competitive season, it’s easy to start thinking wins and losses are the most important thing. They are not. When needed, remember to step back and ensure that you’re making decisions and plans based upon what is best for the student-athlete. 

 

David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach.  In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the Nastional Association for Sport and Physical Education.  He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association's Athletic Director of the Year.  Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country.

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