What I Learned About Teaching from a Basketball Coach

Monday night’s NCAA National Championship game was a heartbreaker for a University of Kentucky basketball fan like me. But it has been a fun season to watch and learn from a master teacher – University of Kentucky Basketball Coach John Calipari.

Here are three things I learned about teaching from John Calipari.

1. Preparation and ability position children for success, but it’s character that ensures it.

All of us have been frustrated at one time or another with children who have all the ability in the world, but often don’t rise to the occasion. The child who misses half his math problems because he forgot to check his work. The high school student who turns in a three-sentence essay. The college student with the high SAT score who ends up flunking out. These are not cognitive problems. These are reflections of a person’s character.

The same is true on the basketball court. As talented and heralded as the UK freshmen were this year, they landed on campus without the ability to consistently win basketball games. By the middle of the season, the pre-season number one team was nothing better than ho-hum. But then the team started winning. Game after game, heartfelt effort after heartfelt effort. The difference? The execution of character.

All people, especially children, struggle with the challenge of matching performance to ability. Without determination, diligence, self-discipline, and other important character traits, students fall short of their goals, even when they possess superb athletic, cognitive, or artistic abilities. As teachers, it’s our responsibility to help students understand the importance of character, inspire them to execute it, and continually put them in environments where they can learn to apply it. This pursuit should be a significant part of our homeschooling objectives.

2. When something isn’t working, STOP!

When the Kentucky basketball team was struggling this past season, Coach Calipari instituted the infamous “tweak.” It changed his team from losers to winners.

There is always – ALWAYS – a new and better way of doing anything. Put away the old textbook. Try a new teaching strategy. Take a vacation. Maybe it doesn’t even matter what you do because sometimes it’s the change itself that sparks renewed interest and effort. Whatever you do, if something isn’t working, just don’t keep doing it the same way you always did it before.

3. Make your own kind of music, if you want to sing your own special song.

Not afraid to challenge the status quo, forge new paths, or try new approaches, Coach Calipari has re-invented himself, his teams, and maybe even the game of college basketball itself.

As homeschool parents, I think we often settle for the same strategies, have the same expectations, and feel gratified by the same passing grades. We have the opportunity and the freedom to accomplish great things in our homeschools. Instead, we settle for things like “covering all our bases,” and “getting my child through high school.”

In homeschooling, we can rewrite the lesson book on raising and educating children. We don’t have to do it like everyone else does. Because we can do it better.

Until next time….Be fearless.

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