The Athletic + Academic Connection

Coach and player at Dana Hall ice hockey practice.Winter is always my favorite season of the year. It brings snow (which comes with the anticipation of a snow day around every corner), many of my favorite family celebrations, and most of all, it brings the hockey season. The smell of a fresh sheet of ice, the feeling of a puck on your stick, and the smiles that come when your teammates join you to goof around before practice and then encourage you once the hard work starts. As a coach at Dana Hall School, I get to facilitate the development of relationships between my players, instilling in them a sense of loyalty and support. What I personally cherish in this process is how I also get to know students in this less formal setting, and I am always blown away by how those relationships transfer back to the classroom.

The role of teacher and coach offers such a unique opportunity to learn who students are within a more well-rounded context. So often in schools students and teachers only spend time together in one setting, the classroom. Though Dana Hall School has a vibrant community filled with informal conversations over dinner, a weekend trip, or a chance passing in the library, these encounters happen by chance and don’t offer the same ability to spend routine, daily time in a less formal setting. Over time I spend with students during sports, I get to learn about what motivates them, what they enjoy, what else they excel at, and what they’re proud of. As a coach, it is so rewarding to see them learn about themselves and grow into who they want to be. As their teacher, I can take this enhanced understanding of who a student is back into a classroom setting to help find new pathways to engage and motivate their academic learning. It has never ceased to amaze me how a breakthrough in practice on Tuesday afternoon can translate into excitement for class on Wednesday morning.

Coach instructs players at ice hockey practice.The benefits of knowing someone in multiple spheres of their lives also cuts both ways; when students have the opportunity to see a teacher engaging in a sport they love, it can be humanizing. As the myth that “teachers sleep under their desks at night” is further dispelled we become more approachable, which translates into a richer academic and athletic experience.

As the hockey season starts to wind down and the softball season approaches, I know I’ll miss the routines and relationships of the winter season, but I’m looking forward to all the new insight the spring season will bring.

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About Sarah Jacobs

Sarah Jacobs is a Science Teacher in the Upper School and the head coach of the Ice Hockey program at Dana Hall School. She joined the School in 2012.

4 Replies to “The Athletic + Academic Connection”

  1. Sarah, thank you for sharing your insights as a teacher-coach! I greatly appreciate all that you do both on the field/ice and in the classroom!

  2. This is so true, Sarah, and so well said! Thank you for reminding us this year of the importance of the full context of our relationships with students.

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