Welcome to Sidelines, a blog by Karl Miran, Athletic Director, who provides insight into how sports are an integral part of the educational experience.


But, It's Messy!

Teachers, parents, students, and coaches sometimes need to be re-assured that learning is messy, progress is messy.   The hard part is not in accepting that life is “messy”; during adolescence, the evidence is unavoidable.  No, the difficult part is in trusting that progress, learning, and growth is taking place. 

A couple reflections on the necessity of going through “growing pains” in the messy phase that leads to growth:

  Developing leaders may be sloppy:

Jeremy LaCasse, Assistant Head at Taft School, writes about the temptation for teachers (and parents) to work too hard to steer students toward success.  To see his full essay, go to:   It is natural, after all, for adults to want the outcome of a student project to be successful.  However, he stresses that it is necessary for students to “do the work” and face the risk of failure, in order to fully grow as leaders. 

  Developing a team is not a one-and-done:

In my years mentoring coaches, I often hear coaches (after a loss, or a string of losses) echoing LaCasse’s rhetorical question “Why don’t they do what I tell them to do?” They sometimes say:

“we told them to deny the ball to #23”

after #23 from the other team scores 3 goals, or

“we told them to work the ball inside”

after our team loses by shooting 20%, all outside shots, or

“we told them to eat a healthy lunch”

after an athlete gets sick to her stomach during a race

As we talk, I will try to help those coaches understand some wisdom that I received in my second year of coaching, working for John Whitehead, a sometimes grumpy, old-school coach.  He reminded me of the “Four Stages of Coaching”:

You Tell Them

You Show Them

You Watch Them

You Tell Them

 At first, I thought this was a cute little adage, but eventually it made sense.  The lesson:  Good coaching is a circular process, relying on evaluation and effective feedback, and it never ends.

Great coaches and great teachers recognize when learning is taking place internally, even when it is obscured by a messy exterior. They adjust their teaching when the evidence calls for it, but they keep the faith that progress is being made. They combine flexibility in their methods with steadfastness in their commitment to their long-term plan.  

Posted by kmiran on Wednesday November, 29, 2017 at 09:12AM


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