While the ‘experts’ and even some fans doubted our team’s chances for success, you can be certain that the coaches and players believed they could win, and more importantly had a plan and a commitment to make that victory a reality. The football team’s win, while not necessarily predicted, is the latest in a long series of victories for a team that has established itself as one of the best programs in the state. Head coach Ryan Schartz, his assistants, and the very dedicated young men who make up the team year after year have developed Fort into a rather unlikely powerhouse in a sport typically dominated by larger schools with greater resources.
In fact, the Fort Osage football program is perhaps the district’s strongest model of our ‘Believe to Achieve’ vision for the district. Since the team’s success has been sustained as players have come and gone over the past several years, a great deal must be attributed to the coaching staff and the system they’ve developed. With that in mind, here are some tenets of that success that extend beyond the gridiron and could make as much difference to student learning in classrooms as they have to our football team’s performance on the field.
Coaches work hard… but not harder than their players.
Vince Lombardi said ‘The only place success comes before hard work is in the dictionary.’ Football coaches spend countless hours watching films, designing plays, encouraging players and leading practices and drills. But successful coaches understand that their hard work will never pay off unless their players are working even harder to understand the game, learn the plays and act with the strength and skill that only come from dedicated practice. There are many brilliant, hard-working coaches with losing teams, because success is only possible when coaches lead players to work harder than they thought possible and perform better than they ever knew they could.
Coaches know the game… and how to teach it to their players.
Again Vince Lombardi: ‘Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.’ Effective coaches must have a deep understanding of their game and an excellent ability to communicate that understanding to their players. Not every player has to know every nuance that the coaches see, but they must know enough to be able to respond on the field when circumstances change. Great coaches provide constant feedback to their players, especially in practice, on how well they’re meeting the target and they push them to achieve at even higher levels. In the classroom this corresponds to teachers using their deep content and process knowledge to lead students to higher levels of understanding that they can use in novel situations to solve problems of all sorts.
Coaches build a culture of success that everyone wants to continue.
By working across grade levels and with parents as well as players, coaches build a community of adults and students who are all working toward the same goals. In the case of Fort Osage football, that culture is one that values teamwork and perseverance over any individual play or performance. Players want to be part of a successful program, and students want to be part of a successful learning environment. Just as success is visible in sports, teachers can make learning visible to students through goal setting and effective feedback, and create powerful communities where students take pride in their learning and the effort required to achieve their goals.
Teachers ARE coaches of learning, and we can all benefit from observing some of the greats to see how it’s done...