For my Service Learning Project I have been helping coach the Senior Boys Basketball Team at Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, the school in which I was placed for my first ever teaching practicum. The following is a list of the top 5 most important things I’ve learned (so far) about myself, my players, and coaching in relation to teaching:
1. I Really Miss Playing Basketball.
Most of my life up to this point has been dedicated to the sport of basketball. The countless hours spent practising on my own or with my team, watching game-film, and hanging out with my teammates… I didn’t realize it at the time but that is when I was truly happy. Now that I have graduated and I’m officially retired from competitive basketball, I am left with a crushing emptiness in my life, a hole that was filled by being part of a team and working towards a common goal of getting better and winning. I guess I was drawn to want to coach this team because I was looking for a sense of fulfillment that I have yet to find anywhere else, and even though I am just an assistant coach, I still feel as though I am a part of the team. Watching them play games or running them through drills at practise is fun and I like seeing them get better, or make good plays on the court, but at the end of every game or practise I am left with an overwhelming sadness and nostalgia for the times when I was the one out on the court everyday.
2. I’m More Comfortable On the Court Than In the Classroom.
This one makes sense if you think about it logically. Although I am in teacher’s college aspiring to become a teacher, I have really only been teaching for less than a month, whereas I have been around the game of basketball for almost 15 years. I don’t think I lack confidence in any aspect of life, and teaching was no different, but I feel like I am a completely different animal once I get on the basketball court. My level of expertise in the sport allows me to really assert myself and unleash my true personality. I had some students in my classes that are also on the basketball team and I think it’s safe to say that they were surprised to see the person I was on the court vs. the person I was in the classroom. This definitely stems from me feeling more in my element in a sporting environment, but I will strive to bring this version of myself into the classroom as I get more experienced because I feel like that is my true self.
3. My Experience in the Sport Commands Respect.
The team at Lawrence Park is pretty good and has several experienced players in leadership positions, so it easily could have been a rough time volunteering to help coach them. But once I shared my level of experience playing basketball at a high-level and demonstrated to them that I knew what I was talking about, I felt like I gained their respect right away. My Ethos allowed me to assert myself into the situation and opened up a great teaching/learning relationship that was beneficial to all parties involved. If I were helping out with another sport, perhaps I would take more of a backseat approach and just fill up water bottles and help with basic drills, but with my expertise in the sport, I feel as though I can really share my knowledge and utilize my experience to help make the team, and each individual player better.
4. I Made the Right Choice In Teaching I/S.
I also coach a U9 boys and girls basketball team at a local private school and the difference between my two teams is really representative of the differences I considered when deciding between Junior, Intermediate and Senior grade levels when it comes to teaching. Sure, it’s fun playing games with the little 8 and 9 year olds, especially when I let them try to score on me and just block their shots as hard as I can, and sure they are insanely cute, but it’s just so tiresome for what feels like a light-to-no impact. I have real experience seeing this on the basketball court, and I feel like it translates similarly into the classroom. With the senior boys, obviously it’s much more advanced, and I can share and implement my more complex ideas and principles while seeing immediate impact and improvement. But with the young kids, I have been trying for weeks now to get them to listen and to not hurt each other while playing Octopus… It’s fun, but I really am not sure if they are learning anything at all since there is no evidence. Pat on the back to myself for making good decisions!
5. I Might Really Like Coaching as a Career.
While currently I am trying to enter the teaching profession, I have learned by coaching the team at Lawrence Park that coaching might be a legitimate career option for me upon graduation. When I look back at the coaches I’ve had over the years, there are certainly many who have had a tremendous impact on my development into the man I am today (for better or worse!), similar to the many great teachers that I have had. The parallels between the two positions are extensive, and with my passion for basketball, alongside my self-proclaimed expertise, I feel as though I probably have more to offer as a basketball coach than as a teacher. I look at the my old coaches and see places where I can both derive from their philosophies and differ from them in a way that I think could really benefit players. If this whole teaching thing doesn’t work out, perhaps I could consider a career as a basketball coach…but maybe that’s just me being stuck in the glory days!