Just the other day I followed a link on twitter to a blog post from @jasondevos titled ‘DEVOS: A COACH’S PRIMARY OBJECTIVE SHOULD BE TO TEACH’. Whilst there was some interesting content in the piece, I was intrigued by the title and wondered to myself ‘why a coach’s primary objective should be to teach… and not to coach’?
This brought back a few incidents from the past couple of years where, on a number of occasions, I have heard the dreaded phrase that you find in the title of this post ‘Bad Teachers Coach, Good Coaches Teach…’. When questioning those who had delivered this fairly public ‘sledging’ of the coaching profession, the common reasons that come back are surrounded around the ideas that:
teaching is about developing the whole child…
coaching is simply about improving performance of skills and techniques…
For me this notion that teachers are wise in the ways of ‘holistic development’ and coaches are simply ‘in it to win it’ is a bit of a dated (idealistic) view of the nature of the 2 areas and actually fairly unrealistic in my own experience. Is it realistic to assume that in schools, where P.E. teachers (bless them) can often be faced with up to and sometimes more than 50% of a class who really don’t want to be there, are actually developing the individual health, decision making, political, environmental and religious aspects of each of the 32 children in that class?. In the same sense, do we simply view coaches as groups of win-orientated beasts that drill participants into the ground without care of consequence, in search of their next competitive scalp. I liken this to an impression that teachers are producing large, wholesome free-range eggs, whilst coaches simply manage the battery hens, because more is better… More so, if teachers are doing a bad job then we need to label them as a lowly ‘coach’ and as soon as a coach begins to care, well they must be a teacher.
So why such a stark difference in the opinions of each of the professions? Is it because of this notion of being a profession? Do people view teaching as a profession, yet coaching as only a pastime? If so, then why do we make these assumptions (coaching as a profession is a title for another blog post).
Many researchers are beginning to acknowledge that coaching is moving away from simply being a process of improving physical and psychological attributes. Cross & Lyle (1999) suggest that defining coaching effectiveness as contributing to enhanced performance, or being synonymous with success does not do the concept justice. More recently too, Robyn Jones produced an interesting paper on the holistic side of coaching (Coaching as caring (‘The smiling gallery’): Accessing hidden knowledge) looking at the importance of caring in the role of the coach.
I guess my question is ‘what we understand the difference between coaching and teaching to be’? In my opinion/experience, the constraints of the teaching environment focuses on curriculum/teacher-led, instruction-based technique development or skill acquisition, across a myriad of sports, some in which the teacher has ‘expertise’ or they identify as specialisms, many though in which they do not. Coaching on the other hand allows for a more player centred approach to understanding the use of skills in the context of the sport with a practitioner that tends to have that sport as a specialism. I believe that the environment in schools is geared towards developing physical literacy, whereas in coaching settings there is a better opportunity to develop an understanding of skills in the context of the specific sport. By this I am not suggesting that coaches do not develop skills nor that understanding is not developed in school settings as I know that this can be the case. In reality, I think that a lot of what happens in coaching and teaching settings is very similar. In my experience there is as much teaching that lacks ‘development of the whole child’, or an holistic approach as there is coaching that does not develop skill and improve performance. But to say that coaching is a poor person’s teaching is not entirely fair to either profession.
Why can’t good coaches simply be good coaches? And bad teachers… well they need to be coached to be better!
I’d be interested in your views on this topic.