I’m watching my son’s second to last practice before his team’s first flag football game this Saturday and it’s…clumsy.
12 boys and 2 coaches.
Two of the boys were simply built for the football field. They might even have been born on one. They know the plays and they go precisely where they need to go. They listen intently to the coaches and understand exactly what they are talking about. There is only focus. They are playing ball, and that’s all that matters.
There are a few more boys, about eight of them, with varying levels of ability and interest in the game of football. They also listen to the coaches and generally follow instructions. In huddles, they nod at all instructions but sometimes it seems this is more an effort to LOOK like they understand. They figure they’ll probably pick it up on the way…maybe, or whatever, but who cares, they’re having fun.
The remaining two boys are clearly only here because mom, dad, stepmom, grandpa, someone over dinner said, “Hey, I signed you up for football” and they are now out of the house for a couple of hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Coach’s instructions pretty much fly over their heads, like most of the passes. They’re totally winging it. They’re not exactly enjoying practice, but they’re enduring. One literally looks at his watch after every play.
I’ve seen the exact same scene in the classroom, in conference breakout sessions, at church, and in business meetings. And I’ll bet the game toss coin you have too.
But my focus is actually more on the coaches tonight.
Every teacher and trainer, coach and mentor has worked with the same composition of learners: The top few who were just made for the subject and for whom everything seems to come so ridiculously easily. The larger group (the middle) that spans various abilities and levels of interest (which can sometimes be the most challenging to keep up with). And finally those last few who are just…there, barely.
Not every teacher and trainer, coach and mentor is skilled enough to engage with them all. These coaches are.
Here’s what they’re doing:
- Using names
- Small group huddles
- Tactical instruction to individual strugglers
- Eye level contact (literally, they are down on their knee looking their learners in the eyes)
- Constructive feedback and constant encouragement
- The focus is on the fun of learning
You don’t need a field or a football to do any of that.
1, 2, 3, Go Colts!
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