There are numerous advantages to having teachers invested in your program. Sports provide an opportunity for teachers to form better connections with their students. Having teachers that are supportive of the program can help forge important relationships that can facilitate better cooperation between coaches and teachers. Teachers can provide an additional perspective when a player demonstrates unexplained behavior change. When teachers and coaches are actively working in support of one another, student athletes benefit tremendously.
However, too often coaches don’t make an effort to reach out to teachers until a player has a behavioral or academic problem in the classroom. Here are five strategies to help connect teachers with your program.
Teacher Appreciation Night – For a number of years we have hosted “Teacher Appreciation Night” in conjunction with our Senior Night. Our purpose is twofold. First, we want to invite the staff to join us in celebrating our seniors. At the same time, we want to recognize the efforts of teachers to support our student athletes throughout the year. During pregame introductions, our announcer will ask all teachers and faculty to stand while our parents and players lead a standing ovation.
Appreciation Cards / Invitations – To encourage teachers to attend Teacher Appreciation Night, each of our players will write a personalized message on custom-made appreciation cards with an invitation printed on the inside. We encourage our players to be specific with their notes, and provide them with some guidance to make their messages meaningful.
Individual Teacher Recognition – Another way to honor teachers is to host an evening where each individual player chooses a faculty member to honor during pregame. For example, the team walks out together across the gym with their teacher next to each player that nominated them while the announcer recognizes each one. Teachers then join the tunnel for player announcements, and in some cases may be invited into the locker room during pregame / postgame.
Honorary Assistant Coaches – Selecting an “Honorary Assistant Coach” is another way to incorporate teachers into your game night activities. This teacher is invited to attend your pregame practice and film the day before the game. During the game they sit with the team on the bench as another member of the coaching staff. This is a great way for teachers to see the inner workings of the program, to share a unique experience with their students, and to gain an appreciation for the hard work players and coaches put into each game.
Periodic Email Updates – Last fall, one coach in the TOC Mentorship program wrote a weekly email to the high school teaching staff including a few remarks on how the team was playing, updates on recent games, and a preview of up-coming opponents. The emails were brief, but the response from staff was overwhelmingly positive primarily because they were better informed to have conversations with the players about the season.
At minimum, sharing an invitation to follow your team’s social media accounts and providing a game schedule is a good first step in reaching out to prospective fans on the teaching staff.
You never know when a teacher will be a useful supporter of the program. Players notice when teachers are at their games, and they are more likely to attend when personally invited.
At the end of the day, teachers can become some of your most helpful supporters if you make an effort to reach out and “make friends before you need them.”
Food for thought.
Nate Sanderson, TOC Mentor and Co-Host of the Coaching Culture Podcast NSanderson@ThriveOnChallenge.com Twitter @CoachNSanderson