At the end of 2019, I have had the opportunity to reflect back on some of my father’s wisdom as an educator. He was a career Physical and Health Educator and a wrestling coach. My dad had a very successful career in teaching, but he also warned me about how difficult it could be once you entered the profession. In fact, he was the first person to tell me that, if there was anything other than education that I wanted to do as a career, to do it. Since I am my fathers son, I didn’t listen.
However, over the years, my father did give me a great deal of advice about teaching and coaching. Much of it is stored somewhere locked away in my memory and it comes out on occasion. At the end of 2019, there is one piece of advice that has come to the forefront of my memory as wisdom from my father.
As a new teacher trying to get my first full time job, I was lucky enough to land an assistant wrestling coach position at a local high school. My father, being a successful coach, was a storehouse of information. I knew that he would be willing to give me coaching advice if I asked so, sitting down over coffee, I asked him what I needed to know to be a good wrestling coach. It was a conversation that has stuck with me and parts have come become very important in my life.
Keep it simple. That was his first piece of advice. People like to complicate things and get to fancy. Wrestling can get complicated, but you are coaching kids. Keep it simple until they understand it and can do those well, then teach them more complicated skills. And not everyone will get the complicated skills, and that is okay.
Read the rule book front to back so you know it as well as the referees. Know the rules you are working with so you can use them to your advantage if necessary.
Teach every wrestler a few basic moves and train them to be better than anyone else at them. You can win state championships with a good takedown, move from the top, move from the bottom, and pinning combination if you are better than anyone else.
Now, these first three pieces of advice were practical and translate into education very easily. Keep things simple so all students and teachers understand what you are doing. Know the rules you are playing by so you are familiar with the system. And do a few basic things better than anyone else and you will find success in that. But it was his final piece of advice that has stuck with me the most in my career as of late.
If you end your career as a coach with a record better than 50% wins, you have had a successful career as a coach.
This piece of advice was the one that I have wrestled with in my career, and most importantly, this year. He talked about win / loss records in athletics. But it is so much more than that. It is the question of what is a win? What do you consider a win? Is it only the big things and victories? If that is the case, you will be sadly disappointed. If that is your metric for success, you will be unhappy in your career as an educator.
What if we looked at wins as any success we had. Anything that was a positive went in the win column. In my career, this was driven home these season after my dad told this advice. We had a perfect record as a coaching team. We didn’t win a single dual meet. We were zero and about twenty. If we measured success by our wins, we failed horribly. However, what if we looked at successes in other ways? The kids who had never tried wrestling but came out, stuck with it, then came out the next year? That is success. What about the lifelong friendships that were made? That is a success. What about the kid whose life was headed down a dark path who turned himself around? Yep, that is a success.
As educators our metric is often big wins. The flashy successes that everyone can see. What if we looked at success as smaller but just as tangible. How would our view on the year be different?
As you end 2019, I would encourage you to do two things in reflection. First, look at all of your successes this year, no matter how small and add them as wins. Second, think back on the advice and wisdom of your parents and elders. See what they taught you that is still valuable today.
May you find success in the small things this year. You never know how those small successes may blossom in the coming years.