Monday, August 31, 2015

"Coaching is an action, not a title, and actions result in successes!" Byron & Catherine Pulsifer, from TO MANAGE OR TO COACH?

This August is the first August in 33 years that I am not coaching Varsity Boys' Golf for the North Allegheny School District.  Even when I retired from teaching in June of 2011 to care for my dying and cancer-ridden husband, the district asked me to stay.  I loved coaching as much as I loved teaching and directing shows on the stage, but I did not want to stay too long at the dance, so i turned the reigns over to my very competent JV coach.

On what would have been the first day of golf tryouts, I was working as a rules official at the Pennsylvania Women's Amateur Golf Tournament at Sewickley Heights Golf Club.  While performing my duties and watching my assigned golf holes, I saw an errant shot and scooted over to find the ball, which was close to the out of bounds stakes.The caddie walked up, and greeted me with a huge smile and exclaimed,"Coach Rittman!  I am so happy to see you!"  I recognized this young man, and I knew he had been a golfer for some WPIAL team, but I could not remember his name.  He introduced himself as John and told me he was from Pine Richland, one of our arch-rivals in golf. He played high school golf 10 years ago.  John told me that he never forgot a putting tip I gave him all those years ago-and he also said that he never forgot that although I was the coach from the opposing team, I spent time with him to help him to improve his game.  John said my on-course lesson was actually the best putting tip he had ever received, and that he still thinks about it when he plays golf, and shares the tip when he caddies, for those players who need a "visual."

I was embarrassed to say that I was not sure of the tip to which he was referring, since I have coached for so long, and I have hundreds of tips I have learned and shared through the years. He reminded me that we were standing on the practice putting green and he said he was having difficulty "reading" the line of the putt.  I told him to think about what would happen to the water if he dumped a huge bucket of water on the green. Where would it go?  I said that as he looked at the slope of the green, flat spots, valleys and the ridges, the water would tell the player which way the ball would roll.  This image really clicked with his learning style. He said he really needed a visual to learn to read greens, and that I taught him to read greens much better with that simple suggestion. 

I can barely remember that conversation from over 10 years ago, but that lesson is still something that John uses every day.  It is peculiar that teachers have such a power to instill knowledge, but we never know for sure who is listening and learning. I was lucky on this day to be provided with some positive feedback.

I was so pleased to have this conversation with the now 28 year old young man, especially when I was feeling a little down and missing the first day of tryouts. (I REALLY loved coaching.) Being reminded that I made a difference for a young man was a gift given to me that day, and one I wanted to share with you. 

Teachers never get a chance to see a finished product, but sometimes we do get to see little pieces of what we have helped to build. In teaching and in coaching, giving the best we have to offer to the kids is always the right thing to do.  I hope you will  receive some positive feedback as your career progresses.  I also hope you will always love school - and coaching.

One more thing - you never know when a few words and a few minutes will make a big impression - even if the player is from a rival team.

Rittman Publishing, LLC ® 

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Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER 

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