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Football, Coaching, and Student Motivation

As the loyal readers of this blog are well aware, one of my areas of interest is the motivational philosophies and tactics sports coaches use to build strong teams that might also be utilized in the classroom to raise student achievement.

And that brings me to a book I am reading, The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam, the author of The Best and the Brightest and other best-selling books about American culture, sports, and politics.

This book is a biography of Bill Belichick, the current head coach of the New England Patriots, the most successful team in the NFL in recent years, with three Super Bowl victories in the past five seasons.

You wonder: What lessons could be learned about education from a book about a football coach? The answer is many.

What struck me, in particular, were the wide range of coaching philosophies and styles of some of the most successful high school, college, and professional coaches highlighted in the book. In other words, much like teaching, there is no cookie-cutter model of a successful football coach despite the stereotypes of all football coaches as cruel, boisterous, task masters. Undoubtedly, some motivate their players through such tactics, but others use a quiet, analytical approach to the game that is just as effective. Still others pull from both styles to create a sort of coaching composite. They all base their styles, in part, on what they think the players on their teams need.

And that raises some important questions about teaching. What style of teaching, for instance, motivates a group of poor, underachieving inner city boys or girls? Is it the tough love approach or a more laid back style? And how about privileged upper middle class kids? What approach motivates them most effectively? Better yet, what style works best with kids from all kinds of backgrounds?

If you are interested in the intersection of ideas (and experiences) between coaching and teaching, you might want to check out two blogs by teachers who are also coaches. Those blogs are: A Passion for Teaching and Opinions and Teaching in the 408.

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