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Coach's Role

When interscholastic high school sports were in its infancy in the early 1900’s, the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) was founded by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, the First Director of Physical Education for New York City Public Schools. One of the attributes of sports he praised was that athletics taught “obedience to a leader, even when evidently mistaken.”  For 120 years, we’ve used that same model for sports teams.

In an age where employers crave decision-makers and creative problem-solvers, training young people for a future in factory work or robotic skills more conducive to the life and death decisions in military life, is not filling the needs of 21st century youth.

Moreover, absolute power, which leaves children with no significant voice in their own lives, leads to opportunities for emotional and physical abuse.

If the axiom of every behavioral science is that people learn faster and better in a positive, encouraging, safe and supportive environment, then negatively expressed yelling, etc. is anti-science and cannot be tolerated in an educational setting.

Recognizing the emotional and sometimes physical harm done to victims of negative coaching, it is the responsibility of the school district to gather information that would form the basis of a written curriculum.  That curriculum would make modeling and explicitly teaching how to create a positive environment the foundation block upon which other life skills can be and should be taught such as focus, effort, goal-setting, emotion management and relationship-building.

A facilitating coach informs players that he is going to ask players lots of questions so they can practice problem-solving and decision-making.  Coaches collaborate with players and ask for their input on games and practices while reserving the authority to make game-time decisions.  When we teach intentionally, we teach explicitly so that players know what is being taught and why. As an example, facilitating coaches don’t yell “focus” out onto the playing field, they teach them how to practice focusing.