What It’s Like For Us Teachers Who Also Coach

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.

I was tired. I felt more than a little defeated.

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.

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. 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 – there’s just no way around it.

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. I’ll bring passion, 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 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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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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