Being a Teacher & Coach: Double the Effort, Double the Reward

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Trying to Master the Perfect Balance Between Teaching & Coaching

Coach teacher on field

I picked up the last two softballs on the field and threw them into the bucket before carrying it to the sports’ closet in the school gym.

The number of balls I find left on the field is the number of laps you’ll run tomorrow after practice,” I had warned as the middle school softball players left the field in a hurry at 5 p.m.

I thought of the laps they’d run for the same thing in the past. The laps and my attempted lessons on responsibility did not seem as if they were having a major impact on the girls. I knew in that moment that I wouldn’t mention the forgotten gear or softballs. I was tired. I felt more than a little defeated.

I grabbed the hand of my five-year-old son who had followed me from his spot on the bleachers to our car after practicing his throws into a net outside the field during practice. I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized that every last one of the parents picked their kids up on time. Many times, I spent a half-hour or so in front of the gym waiting on Andrea’s mom to get off work or Taylor’s cousin to answer the phone. I would try to hide the impatience on my face as I checked the time and worried about what I’d make for dinner. After all, it wasn’t their fault that their ride wasn’t there on time.

During the twenty-minute drive home, my mind replayed the moments of practice that went well and others that didn’t. Defense looked great, but my goodness, we couldn’t hit the ball to save our lives today. The fact that we lost the last three games adds a little pressure to do better on the road later this week.

Once home, I fall into family mode as I try to fight thoughts of graded papers and written line-ups I have yet to do; it’s a tough thing to do. When you teach, you live it. When you coach, you live it. When you do both, there are times that you become absorbed by it; when pouring into youth all day long, there’s just no way around it.

If you didn’t have enough to do during school hours as the leader of a classroom, you will certainly find your fulfillment and overwhelm as the leader of a team.

Some days, being a coach is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s a second job. It’s a responsibility during a time of day in which you’re already at your wit’s end.

On a good day, it’s what makes it all worthwhile. It’s seeing the faces you know behind a desk in an environment where you get to know their personalities, too. It’s another avenue to make a difference. It’s an extension of your own love of the game.

Girl playing baseball

Each day, good or bad, I lay in bed thinking of kids: my own, my students, my players. My mental space never seems to be enough for all the young people that occupy my thoughts. My efforts never seem to be enough to go around.

However, I know that no matter my mindset as I fall asleep, the next day will bring the potential that only young people can bring. They’ll bring able bodies and eager minds to the field. It’s my job, as their coach, to meet them there with an equally-ambitious disposition. As I hope my players will bring good attitudes and zero drama, I’m responsible for bringing forgiveness and leadership.

Tomorrow, I’ll join the players as they run to fit in my own cardio, and because they love it. I’ll split the team into groups and amplify our short time to squeeze in as many drills as possible, and so they’ll get more one-on-one time. I’ll correct each player on their weakness, and I’ll make sure to point out a strength. I’ll shake off annoyance at a whiney teen and an ill-informed parent, and I’ll try not to dwell on it. 

Tomorrow, I will undoubtedly fail to master a perfect balance between teaching and coaching. I’ll use my planning period to write out plays and then I’ll grade essays under the dim light of my phone flashlight on the hour-long bus ride home. I’ll let one of my jobs slip in favor of the other. I’ll become a mediocre teacher after a long-weekend tournament. I’ll end practice early in frustration during testing. There’s no magic formula. 

On game day, I’ll try my best to relieve the pressure my players feel as I hide my own nervousness. I’ll silence the noise instead of joining their chaos. I’ll give signs with confidence and let the affirmations coming off my lips far outweigh the negations.

This is coaching. There’s trial and error. There’s hustle and heart. There’s determination and unmatched patience for a group of kids who are in the same boat, struggling to balance grades and sports and coming into their own.

Coaches are volunteers; the low pay breaks even after you consider the behind-the-scenes expenses. Coaches are miracle workers; they can build a kid’s confidence with their attentiveness and encouragement. Coaches are speakers; they give pep talks before the game and post-game motivational speeches like no other.

Coaches are superheroes; every day, they don’t know how they’ll do it, but every day, it gets done. Coaches who are also teachers have double the superpowers.

My fellow coaches: never forget that the sport you pour your heart into could be the reason some kids look forward to coming to school. Never forget that the foundation you’re building on a small field could help build some child’s future.

Being a teacher & coach

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WhitneyBallard

Whitney Ballard is a writer and teacher from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, https://trainsandtantrums.blog/. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holding a Master’s degree in Education; she writes about her journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens on her blog. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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