Sunday, October 25, 2009

Youth Football Follies

Local sports teams practice on a field near my house where I sometimes walk. Last week, the main sport seemed to be the coaches yelling at the kids. There was so much yelling that I started to think it really wasn't a football practice so much as the "mad coach show." Here are some (pretty much) direct quotes:

"It's week six! WEEK- SIX! And you STILL don't huddle right! You don't come OUT of the huddle right! You don't even line UP right! ...And could you NOT interject a comment after everything I say!"

I should really start bringing pen and paper on my walks, because there were some other funny lines I don't remember.

Here's what I've learned after 11 years of teaching: if you have to yell at kids about the same thing twice, the problem is YOU, not the kids. It's a management issue.

Here's what I suggest to these yelling coaches: Rather than berating, state the problem, the desired solution, and the consequence. (And probably a reward.)
For example: "I'm seeing you line up too slowly. When I say 'go,' you line up as fast as you can. If you don't do it in under 4 seconds, you are ALL running laps. If there's improvement by the end of practice, I'll let you run one less sprint than usual." They'll probably have to run laps twice, but then they'll get lined up faster for the rest of practice.
(Oh, and if anyone walks during laps, the whole team has to keep running until the slowest player finishes.)

I teach the age group of these kids, so I have a lot of sympathy for the coaches. Kids aren't easy to manage, especially middle school boys who are trying to look cool for each other.
But I also have sympathy for the kids who are having their time wasted getting yelled at. A teacher or coach who has a good management system will not have to yell. When you are new, though, you don't understand it's actually more important to have a good management system (and maybe get nothing done at first) rather than try to get stuff done with kids who sense you don't have a good structure to your discipline.

Kids, especially boys, love consequences. Once I had a very boy-heavy class, and I read up on what works best with boys (keep them active, lots of competition, strict rules). I ran my classroom like a football team. "OK, people! Here is what I wanna see! If I don't see it, here's what's gonna happen to you! I repeat: Do this, do not do that, and if I like what I see, I'll reduce your homework a bit. GO!" And when someone messed up, I punished them. They LOVED it. They ate it up. They loved when I threatened them and then followed through on it. They were almost ecstatic.

I'm not joking, they'd cheer for me when I punished someone who didn't follow the expected behavior. It was like we were in a gladiator arena. They would jump out of their chairs and roar their approval.
(And when I say punish, I mean, the person had to like, come after school to close my windows, or be the last to leave for lunch. But if you say it's a punishment, they interpret something little like that as undesirable. The kids were fabulous, so we had a good time with it all. And they did some great writing for me.)


mistersquid said...

Great post, K, or should I say "coach."

Unknown said...

If you're talking about Newfield School, I've heard Coach Pyscho, too. He's probably trying to emulate coaches like the late Vince Lombardi or become the football equivalent of basketball coaches Bobby Knight, Jim Calhoun or Geno Auriemma.

I can turn down the volume or shut off the TV to silence those guys.
But a couple of weeks ago, I was trying to enjoy a relaxing dinner on my deck and Coach Lunatic totally ruining the mood.

One advantage to the winter, which I hate, will be no more Coach Screaming Hyena.

Kevin McKeever said...

Wanna run soccer practice for me on Thursday?

Anonymous said...

I like your choice of topics - there is alot of yelling at boys sports practices, i personally think coaches should have to pass a test or something since the positions seem to sometimes attract guys who would never be given people to manage in their professional lives. Most coaches are great guys who volunteer time, but a few are just guys looking for unearned respect.

You Missed Your Calling said...

This post hit home on so many levels; my son is in said football league (not sure where his coaches fall in the yelling category) and I'm a school librarian (I've often seriously thought about wearing a baseball cap and a whistle to try to maintain order in the library).

cheryl said...

Michael plays for the Raiders (Dolan JJV) on the field you mention. We had an excellent coach, Coach DiVito. One funny thing he said, while the 6th grade Raiders were playing the 7th grade Rippowams was, " yes, they are big. yes, they are hitting you strong. but, they aren't killin you are they? ARE THEY? SO GET OUT THERE, NOW!" It motivated them, and I chuckled on the sideline. Boys are a different breed indeed.