Monday marks my return to standing in front of large groups of mostly unwilling children that I somehow have to convince need to learn Algebra. Our class size cap has been moved up to 33 students per room as we lost a position in every department in “all schools” for “reasons”. It should be an interesting challenge, to say the least.
This is the first time in my now seven years that I’m actually looking forward to going back. I think I finally know unequivocally that I can do the job, and do it well. I know exactly what to expect. I know exactly how to respond. I have complete confidence that I will be successful no matter what challenges pop up.
I probably relate too many things in my life to hockey, but my mind drifts towards hockey an inordinate amount of time because that’s really all I have going for me these days. When I see people scoff at the value of veteran players or the need for leadership in a lineup I think of scenarios like the one I face now. Experience is incredibly valuable as long as it isn’t used as a crutch to stifle new ideas or incoming talent.
He does some irritating things on the ice that will probably make me irrationally angry towards him this year as the Stars run his little buddy Roman Polak in the lineup at times, but Mike Babcock is easily my favorite NHL coach going. I don’t even really blame Babcock for using Polak that much because no one forced the Maple Leafs to keep him around for Babcock to use. I feel myself getting distracted already.
Babcock is great because he attacks his job the way a good teacher does which makes sense given that he was a teacher. Any teacher willing to do it could Google “Mike Babcock coaching”, or substitute teaching instead of coaching, and find numerous bits of wisdom that relate to a modern classroom. Today’s dose is this Sportsnet story that appears to be some years old.
This blurb about relationships stuck out to me when reflecting about my experiences last school year. I think it’s part of the teaching job that a lot of teachers don’t fully appreciate, and one that people who don’t do it for a living often miss.
You have conflicts with players all the time. Sometimes you resolve it and sometimes you don’t. You work as hard as you possibly can to get it sorted out. What’s interesting is that the conflicts that last a while normally happen with players who think you don’t care about them.
When someone thinks you don’t care about them, they think you’re up against them. Coaching is about trying to make people better, but sometimes you don’t handle it right. …the bottom line is you’ve got to find a way to make it work.
It’s easy to write people off when they fuck up or lash out, especially when it feels like their behavior is targeting you as a person. I think my biggest challenge from day one this year is to remove myself from conflict situations without getting upset at situations where I have every right to be upset.
It, uh, isn’t easy with 14-15 year olds who can be 6’3 and look like they should be mature adults.
I imagine it is a different kind of difficult with veteran athletes who have gotten to the point of working under Babcock by always being at the top of their profession. I always appreciate the perspective Babcock adds because he clearly remembers the difference.
One thing about coaching in the NHL is you don’t have as much impact on people as you did when you coached at younger levels. When you coach major junior or college I think you make a significant impact on those people.
That impact is a responsibility I don’t know that I took as seriously as I should have my first few years as a teacher. Not because it isn’t important, but I don’t know if it really can hit someone who comes from a broken home and doesn’t have kids of their own until they realize they have students who are two years away from graduating college now, or students who have kids that are 8-9 years old already.
Life is weird. Regardless of how weird it is I have 160 some odd new people to meet in the next two days, many of whom need a lot from me beyond just math.
Each team you coach is different and every person is different, so when you coach the team you have 23 different plans for 23 different players. Now, they still have to fit into the structure of the team—the team comes first—but the reality is, we want everyone to be the best they can possibly be.
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