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To Teach is to Learn Twice Over

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

That title is something I stole off of a google search but I like it. As I mentioned in last month's blog, it is awesome getting to watch and be a part of coaches learning our Eat the Captain system. The more opportunity I get to teach this system, the more I learn it. I know it seems like if I am teaching something I should know it. As far as material goes, yes I know it. As far as teaching and communicating, I continue to see that I can always get better.

Coach Barnard (Stillwater, OK High School) always makes a great point about checking for understanding with kids by having them repeat back to you what you just said. We had an example yesterday by asking a player to repeat back a DL movement we had just explained. It took the player 5 attempts to correctly repeat an 8 word description of his movement. Each time he missed the description I would repeat it again for him, and it took 5 tries to get it right. And yet, I still often think, "I told him so he knows." Benjamin Franklin said, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." Coach Barnard's idea of checking for understanding is involving the player in the learning process and goes beyond teaching.

When a coach talks about "our kids are dumb and can't learn a bunch of stuff" I can't help but wonder about the teacher. As a young coach, I was a special teams coordinator and we got a punt blocked in a game. On Sunday, in front of the entire staff, the head coach asked me, "Why did we get our punt blocked?" I explained what happened on the play. I went through the specifics of the punt protection, the rush that we saw, and where the protection broke down, and I identified the player who had made the critical mistake. The head coach asked me the same question again. I repeated my answer again. We repeated this exchange several times and to be honest, I thought the head guy was being a jerk and simply calling me out and torturing me in front of the staff (which he was). But then he finally broke loose with a new question..."Do you think the kid ran out there and intentionally got that punt blocked?" My response was simple, "Of course not." The HC then asked, "Then why did he not do it right?" My response was again simple, "I don't know Coach, I've told him hundreds of times." Then the HC lost it with me, "Exactly! You told him but you obviously did not teach him! If you had taught him we would not have gotten the punt blocked! WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU COACH! Apparently, you are coaching blocked punts at practice!" It was a terrible experience but I got better from it. I took away that telling is not teaching, and what you see on video is what you teach...period. That blocked punt experience made me a better teacher, coach, dad, businessman, etc. The HC actually involved me in the learning...however painful it may have been.

I recently went to Lakeville Minnesota to spend a couple of days with the staff at Lakeville North High School and their Head Coach Brian Vossen. We were working through all of the 5 days of defensive install in our ETC system. At one point, Coach Vossen (the head coach) asked if he could "teach" a section of the install because he knew he would get better understanding of the material by teaching it. Of course, he killed it AND modeled how to prepare and teach for all of his assistant coaches. I recently worked with a young coach that said he would never get up on a whiteboard for anybody because he doesn't feel comfortable doing that. That poor kid needs to switch professions or get some time with Brian.

Our system of defense is about being a great teacher...but so is any system. Show me a great defense, offense, business, family, or whatever and I'll bet there is a great teacher in the mix!

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