Coaching For Achievement
Coaching For Achievement
The Rules of the Game:
What is Coaching?
The score is tied 40-40 in the final game for the state championship when the home team calls a timeout with 19 seconds to go. The coach huddles the team around him and sketches out the final play. Because he knows the opponents will focus on the team's star, the coach decides to have another player take the last shot. As the team breaks the huddle to take the floor, the coach looks at the faces of his players and senses that something is wrong. "What is it? Well...what is it?!" The team's star says quietly, "I'll make it." The coach looks from player to player then quickly re-draws the play, putting the ball in his best shooter's hands.
The team throws the ball inbounds and, after several crisp passes, the ball is in the shooter's hands. He dribbles the ball - once, twice, three times - and with two seconds to play, pulls up for the shot. It's on the way...swish, through the net..and the crowd goes wild! (Anspaugh, 1986)
This climactic scene from the movie Hoosiers captures the excitement, drama, and exhilaration we associate with sports. And the coach is often a key player in - or at least the director of - that drama. When we watch a sporting event, whether in person or on television, we often focus our attention on the coach. We cheer a great game plan or a gutsy call on a last second play. We also are not afraid to voice our displeasure when we feel the coach designed a "bonehead" play that cost our team a victory.
Where did the idea of a coach come from? Surprisingly, the term may have begun in academics, moved to athletics, and now migrated back again. According to Dictionary.com, the term is related to a horsedrawn cart. In the same way that a coach (the cart) carries its passengers, a coach (the person) carries his academic charges through an exam. (Dictionary.com) On his language origins website, Bill Casselman cites a slightly different, but related genesis. He says that while wealthy squires traveled the British countryside with their families in coaches, they would often bring along a tutor for the children during these long rides. Thus the academic work done during these trips became known as "coaching." (BillCasselman.com) Regardless, the four-wheeled cart became a metaphor for "carrying" a charge academically - which, in turn, gave rise to the idea of supporting, mentoring, and "carrying" athletes in their efforts. And we have come full circle.
As we have returned to the idea of academic coaches - especially academic coaches working with fellow teachers - the number of books, structures, and protocols in the field has exploded. Each of these authors proposes a definition or framework for what academic coaching (for our present purposes, the coaching of other professionals) should look like. Here are some samples:
Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. (Whitmore, 2005)
Coaches share an expectation of significant positive change. They are aware of the unbounded possibilities that lie in each of us. (Higgins, 2003)
Coaching is the relationship between two equals, one of whom is committed to making personal and professional improvements...Coaching can move good teachers to become great teachers. (Barkley, 2005)
The coaching process closes the gap between an individual's or team's present level of performance and the desired one. (Eaton, 2001)
So, What Makes a Good (Academic) Coach?
Coaches are leaders. In schools, academic coaches are leaders of teachers. But, as we have said, when talking about academic coaches - teachers working with other teachers - there seem to be as many