This school year was something else. I thought I knew my capacity before, but this shot beyond that idea and more. When the school year closes next week I'll have logged 205 days on duty. August 1 I dove head first into coaching volleyball, followed by a few weeks off and a four month soccer season, just in time to start staying after school to facilitate AP Exam tutorials, organize the end of year laser tag party, and juggle some stuff for the senior picnic. All the while I was pushing new initiatives in Calculus and Pre-Calculus. And if you've never coached a sport before, it's typically an extra 30 hours a week when you're in season on top of the normal classroom expectations.

Some months ago I wrote about my vision for the Calculus program. Not mentioned in that post because it was under my hat is an understanding that I need to transition out of my athletics role to make the plan of reality. Our administration granted my request to make this my last season. As of June 2 I'm out of the athletics game.

It started at random. I was not hired to coach. I received an e-mail in October of my first year teaching asking if I'd be interested in helping out. The school had recently added a third soccer team for 9th graders and needed someone to run it full time. Previously one coach had to juggle two teams and that wasn't feasible. Admitting I knew nothing about soccer, the head coach was willing to work with me. Eight years later I have to say I'm not sure I'd be as good at teaching if it hadn't been for all the things I learned working in athletics.

Coaching is an interesting game. I'm an outsider to the profession. I never intended to coach, never played sports at a high level, and have no aspirations to run a program or be an athletic administrator. But the people who have a passion for it are really incredible to watch. All the effort I put into math instruction they put into making kids comfortable to push themselves in other ways, to represent their school and community in a positive manner. Coaches are also often the biggest advocates for their students in the classroom. So many kids have come through our program who push themselves in school because they know their coaches set high standards for them.

Coaching taught me so much about the operation of a school district. Facilities management, the role of an athletic department, and how much the real soul of a school is guided by the men and women serving children through sport. Varsity Math doesn't happen if I hadn't been involved in athletics. The skills required to navigate account management, acquisitions, and logistics were all learned through watching my head coach navigate the process year in and year out to make sure we had the necessary supplies.

Coaching taught me so much about a diverse population of students. I met so many kids I wouldn't have otherwise through coaching. Many of them boys with weak male role models in their life who turn to their coaches for guidance. Getting a glimpse at coaching girls was eye opening. It's fundamentally the same job but young women have very different needs. Some of the students we will graduate tomorrow have been under my care in athletics since they were in 7th grade. It's a rare opportunity to watch students grow up like that. I am really going to miss those kids.

There are bad coaches. I have known several. But I urge you, if you are a classroom teacher who knows little about your athletic programs or have never bothered to strike up a conversation with a coach on campus, or you aren't even sure how to get to the gym, give it a try. You might be floored by the kind of work these people do for your students.

AuthorJonathan Claydon