To Coach or Not to Coach

This past week, I went to a local Community College volleyball game with my son. We were there to watch a friend play in their first pre-season volleyball game. We bought our tickets, grabbed some popcorn and found seats at the net so we could see both sides of the court. We waved to our friend and were ready for the game to start. As the teams were preparing for their first match-up, Each team took turns hitting across the net. The coaches were watching the girls, but were also just relaxing. They seemed calmed. They seemed ready for the first game.

As the announcer boomed over the speaker, we all stood for the playing of the national anthem and the team players names were announced. Each girl smiled and waved as their name and hometown was called out. The coaches names were also announced and they smiled and waved to the crowd. Both team coaches responded the same way. The game was about to start.

Each team took their place on the court and the coaches took their place on the sidelines. Both coaches had a clipboard with notes and were actively writing down notes or plays that took place. They also used their clipboard as a barrier between them and the other team. While each team was serving, the coach would use a hand signal behind the clipboard to signal to the server what area to serve to and where there might be a hole in the other team’s court. Back and forth, the points were won and lost.

As the game got going, our friend’s team starting taking the lead. They were serving and winning points rather quickly. The other team was just making simple mistakes. This is where things got interesting. As our friend’s team started widening the gap, the other coach started getting very angry. She yelled. She yelled at the refs. She yelled at the players. She made faces. She cursed under her breath. No matter how her players performed, she got angry. Her players didn't’ seem fazed by her responses. They kept playing. She would call timeouts to talk to the team. During those timeouts, she yelled. At one point, the ref made a call that was not in her favor. She absolutely lost it. I literally thought she was going to have a heart attack. This was her turf. Her refs were supposed to be in her favor, right!??

Meanwhile, on the other bench, the other coach was very passive. She never yelled. She never cursed under her breath when her team started making mistakes either. She spoke to her players when they were standing next to her and she didn’t yell across the court. She smiled almost the whole game. She never seemed disappointed, even though her team lost several games.

By the 5th game, both teams had won two games. It was down to a tiebreaker. The yelling continued through the entire game. It came down to the final two points and the home team ended the match-up with a win. Our friend’s team was sad, but they weren’t devastated. They lost with dignity. If the other team had lost, I fear there would be some major retaliation or unkind words said.

As I think about this volleyball game, I think about my own learning and teaching. Instructional coaches are the direction many school districts are going. They feel that coaches can offer support and encouragement. They can also offer an outside set of eyes and expertise. When I think back about the two coaches that I witnessed earlier this week, I really don’t feel like I would want either of them as an instructional coach. If the home team coach yelled and screamed every time a mistake was made, I would never do a thing! I would be so worried I was doing things wrong. As for the other coach, I wouldn't want a passive coach. I would want them to make encouraging remarks and coach me from the side. There should be a happy medium. Someone who would offer support and encouragement, yet willing to offer guidance and support.

The terms coaching heavy and coaching light come to mind when thinking about the volleyball game we attended. The image below indicates some characteristics of coaching both ways. Each one has qualities that some thrive on. Some have qualities that others can’t work with. If you are in a coaching position, think about how you are coaching. Are you in a formal leadership role? Are you just volunteering to be a coach? Whether you are being paid to coach or using your own free time, it is important to think about how you want to coach. How do you want to be observed? Are you encouraging your ‘players’? Are you supporting them from the sidelines?

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Killion, J. (2010). Reprising coaching heavy and light. Teachers leading, (T3).

Maureen Seidel

by Maureen Seidel

Maureen Seidel is Faculty of Innovation at Northwest Nazarene University in the Doceō Center. She has more than 14 years of teaching experience here in the Treasure Valley and has an innovative mind for engaging students in the learning process. She taught kindergarten and 1st grade and most recently was a Title 1 Reading Specialist in the Middleton School District. She had a heart for the young learner and is excited about the integration of technology in all grade levels. Maureen is an alum of NNU, graduating in 2003 with her Bachelor's in Elementary Education. Maureen resides in Middleton with her husband of 15 years and 3 amazing boys!