Within the realm of education-based athletics, the educational aspect for the student-athlete is critically important and fundamental. A major responsibility of an athletic administrator, therefore, should be to help his or her coaching staff to meet this objective. One way to accomplish this goal is for coaches to use teachable moments with their athletes.
As the term implies, this approach uses incidents at practice sessions or games, developments within the school or community, newsworthy happenings around the area or country or anything that can be used to learn lifelong values and qualities. The possible topics exist everywhere, and they can be introduced in little snippets, illustrations and brief lessons. These elements can be a very effective and beneficial form of instruction.
To help with this process, athletic administrators are in an ideal position to guide their coaches to recognize topics that can be used as teachable moments and to also provide hints as to how to use them. A common approach is for a coach to huddle his or her team at the end of a practice session to summarize what has been accomplished and what will occur the following day. During this culminating activity, one can quickly fit-in a teachable moment. For more involved topics, a special team meeting can be scheduled to inform and involve the athletes.
Looking back on this past year, there were several major developments, happenings or issues that enveloped and affected many individuals around the country. The issue of systemic racism and racial injustice certainly was front and center, major ethical breaches were reported and COVID-19 was certainly a major disruptive force – to mention just a few. These examples and others can be used as teachable moments, and they may be more important and valuable to interject and use in athletic programs than at any previous point.
Athletic administrators can also do their part and help their coaches by sharing any topics when they see or hear of them. Watching or reading the news, conference attendance, reading professional publications and conversations with colleagues are all good sources. And items discovered in this manner can be easily distributed by sending a simple email message to their coaching staffs. One would simply state, “Thought that this link or article would be helpful for use with your team.”
The following represent some common, obvious examples of what coaches can use with their teams.
While this is not intended to be an all-inclusive list, it does provide a good starting point. The topics that can and should be covered are practically endless. By being observant and extending a little effort, you can uncover countless meaningful and useful topics that may apply to your athletes and teams. Teachable moments can be a great medium to enhance the educational aspect of athletic participation.
Dr. David Hoch is a former athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple (Pennsylvania) University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 700 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as four textbook chapters. He is the author of a book entitled Blueprint for Better Coaching. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.