Coaching, Engagement, and March Madness

Another year of March Madness has come and gone – the women’s champion was crowned on Sunday and the men’s champion was crowned last night.  While the tournaments are entertaining, from time to time there are lessons in sports that transcend and help us to better understand life outside the game.

A video clip emerged recently on social media from Geno Auriemma, the record setting coach for The University of Connecticut women’s team, about body language.  For over three weeks, the video has been appearing regularly in my Facebook feed.  According to a Forbes article, the clip is from last year’s tournament and became popular after a professional batting coach, Matt Lisle, posted the clip on his website.

From the first time I saw the clip, the content resonated deep within me.  In just two minutes and change, Coach Auriemma’s commentary touched on several issues that relate directly, and indirectly, to my life with middle schoolers.  His message was so vital that I decided to show it to our entire student body during Community Period.

When reviewing the clip with the students, we focused most of our conversation on Coach’s concerns with body language.  Coach Auriemma believes that the body language of his players provides direct insight into their ability to contribute.  He states, “So on our team we — me, my coaching staff — we put a huge premium on body language, and if your body language is bad you will never get in the game. Ever! I don’t care how good you are.”

Like the UCONN staff, we at The Beech Hill School put a premium on body language, however, we call it engagement.  In fact, engagement is so vital to our mission that it is one of our “Foundations of Community.”  For middle schoolers, “real life” can feel like a long way off, so connecting the things that are important in their lives with things that are important to people like Coach Auriemma has significance.

Following our Community Period, one of the eighth-grade boys came up to me to continue the discussion.  He told me that his father sent him the clip but he never watched it.  When I asked why, he said that he just didn’t get around to it, but acknowledged that he was really glad that he saw it.  If you get a chance, I would urge you to watch the clip – and when you are done – don’t send it to your child – watch it with them.  You will find that this is fertile ground for discussion, even for those that don’t particularly like sports.