Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Collegial Observation by Coach Steve Kerr: A Path to Victory

Even though he was not named NBA Coach of the Year, Steve Kerr could (and should?) have been. Kerr, a first year head coach for the Golden State Warriors led this team to a regular season record of 67-15. They had all of two losses at home. The Dubs (as we call them) are now in the NBA Finals, hoping to take their first victory title in 40 years. The question that former head coach Mark Jackson, Warriors fans and NBA enthusiasts have asked is: How has he done it? He doesn't' have experience. He has the same players. What's the secret to their success?

Kerr, who played for 15 years in the NBA was a TV analyst, broadcaster and served in the front office of the Phoenix Suns before he was named a head coach. He has studied the game  for most of his life, but he's also studied other things: human nature. Kerr went out of his way to meet with every player before the season began. He flew to the Black Falcon's nest in Miami to meet Harrison Barnes. He took this team bowling—yes bowling. I'm sure he wasn't as concerned with throwing strikes but rather than they spend time together in a way that fuels their competitive natures. He also did something that every coach and teacher ought to consider. He visited and shadowed another coach. (With all due respect, it's hard for me to get super excited about his visiting Pete Carroll).

Every faculty member at the school where I teach is required to observe a colleague once a year. Too often it feels like another requirement to complete. Of the twelve years I have taught at St. Ignatius, I think I have checked that box and hastily completed the official "Collegial Observation Form" two days before it's due...or errr......after.

Logistics aside, I have never regretted the time I spent in a co-worker's classroom. You get ideas of how to run things differently—for better or for worse. You gain insight into how personality can motivate and accentuate a lesson plan.In addition to a new lesson plan, you get a sense of pace and space, timing, when to ask questions and how to ask them. Sounds a lot like basketball doesn't it?
I love that he visited another coach, but did it have to be this one!?
But what's so beneficial about a collegial observation is that one party doesn't reap all of the benefits. It helps to know what someone else sees. They can draw attention to our strengths and what to tweak to make something better. This past year, I welcomed one of our librarians into Sports and Spirituality. She shared several articles related to the topic of my lesson plan after our time together. It was also fun to hear what she thought of the class and what it's all about.

I was talking to our head football coach yesterday. He was telling me that he wants to observe the varsity boys' golf coach. You might wonder why or how anything from a sport like golf might transpire to a contact, team sport like football. But what he understands is that the head boys golf coach is a great coach. He had led both girls and boys cross country teams and now golf teams to championship upon championship. Anyone should be asking the question that we are asking of Steve Kerr: How?

I have always believed it's best to study the behaviors and choices of the people we admire most. That is exactly why I sought a spiritual director twelve years ago. The holiest people I know have them. Teachers and coaches, make time this season or in the new school year to shadow and observe someone you admire...someone who is committed to excellence...see what they do and make it your own. And have fun doing it.

Photo Credits
Coach and athlete

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