Coach G

Orin is director of our teacher residency. He also volunteers as our high school basketball coach. We lost a nail-biter last week to Boston Collegiate, but generally the season is going well. These two jobs cross-pollinate. I.e., some of Orin's beliefs about basketball coaching relate to his beliefs about teacher coaching. So I asked my colleague Kat to chat with some of our ballplayers about Coach G (with apologies to the other Coach G, Edweek blogger David Ginsburg).

Here's what the kids said.

Felico, a Match junior:

Q: What is Coach G like?

A: Coach is assiduous. He never never gives up. Finds what's best for us and will never stop once he has an expectation.

For example, in practice, he has us run suicide sprints. He will have us run 6 or 7. But there's a time limit. Everyone has to finish in 30 seconds. If we don't finish we have to run again. The whole team gets mad and annoyed. But Coach will say things like: "What you're mad at or annoyed at -- is all mental. You have to get over it, turn it off. You are all able to do this physically, now you have to do it mentally."

We don't get mad at the last person who crosses the finish line because Coach G doesn't point him out. He says: "Make sure that YOU are not the last one" and things like "We lost as a team, we will win as a team, which means everyone has to finish this."

Q: What is practice like?

A: Coach is really good at explaining new plays and defensive skills. He always gives us a visual aid. He shows us when he can, or has a starter go on the court to show us. The whole team feels comfortable asking questions when we don't understand it fully, so he will sometimes recognize that and say, "X had a really good question" and then will answer it for the whole team to hear.

Q: Describe a recent halftime.

A: Coach can find our faults and fix it in 5 minutes. One time, we kept turning the ball over. So he gave us a few things to do differently. We had to slow the ball down, spread out our offense, and then attack the basket.

You can see how everyone on the team is listening to him during the halftime. We're all quiet and ask questions if we need to. After a time out or halftime, we go back on the court and you can see us play differently, trying to change what he told us to change.

Q: Does Coach talk to you about things other than basketball?

A: He will check on my grades. The other day, he pulled me aside in the hall when I was on my way to class and said, "Felico, I've been checking on your grades. What's going on with History? There's no need for it to be that low. You need to improve it drastically."

He doesn't just push me, he pushes everyone on the team, especially the people that are academically ineligible.

Q: Why is he a good coach?

A: He listens to what his team has to say. He also will focus an entire practice on one thing we did wrong. The other game we lost, we had 21 turnovers. 10 of them were traveling. So for all of practice we did lay up drills. If we dropped a ball or missed, it was a turnover, and that counted for one sprint.

Devonn, a sophomore:

Q: What is practice like?

A: He is tough on us in practice. He wants to make sure we do everything the right way.

He'll have the starters out running the play, and if they do it wrong we all run. It's irritating because I'm not a starter and I don't want to run that much especially when I'm not doing the play wrong. But he tells us that everything we do, we do as a team, and that's why we have to keep running -- and I agree with that.

Q: What's Coach like?

A:He cares about every player. Not just the starters. He texts us after every game. It's a mass text.

If we win it's like: "Nice win fellas. We did a good job at defending them today. There's practice Monday at 5:30."

If it's a loss it's like: "That's a tough loss to take. Our defense needs to be better. There's practice Monday at 5:30, we're going to work on boxing out."

He treats us as a team, he's talking to everyone. He cares about everyone. For me, well, yesterday I had a good game and he called me at 8pm after and told me I played really well. I need to keep improving but I should feel good about what I did. (I got 13 points!).

Also, the other day I played in the JV game and did well. That night, he texted me saying that the JV coaches told him I played great and that I should be proud.

Q: What do you think of practice:

A: I really like going to practice. It's hard work, and we aren't ever joking around, but I like being in that environment. It gives me something to do. And we're like a family there.

Gabe, a junior:

Q: What do you think of Coach?

A: I think of Coach G as a mentor, he helped me through a lot of stuff (not always basketball related). He talked to me last year when I thought about leaving school and helped me decide to stay. He still texts me to make sure I'm doing my homework, to tell me how proud he is of me. It means a lot.

He treats everyone the same. He shows the same amount of respect to our best player as he does to our worst. Not all my coaches have been like that. He talks about how we are only as good as our worst player, and we need to help each other out, pick each other up. Shows the team how to respect everyone as well.

Reminds me.

Angela Duckworth spoke at our NSVF conference on Friday. Great speaker and provocative material. I don't have good notes here, and I was stuffing my face with pineapple and trying to beat back my email in-box, all while listening, so my usual caveat applies when I hear a speaker -- there's 40% chance I'm about to misrepresent her.

That said: I do recall Duckworth describing a chat with Anders Ericsson.

Duckworth: Anders, why aren't we all world class in something? We all have 10,000 hours of doing something...

Ericsson: Most people don't practice the right way. Nobody likes deliberate practice. Most people don't have a very specific goal for each practice, they don't have a great feedback loop, and they don't enjoy repetition.