Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tucumcari Trisha, Lover of Treaties and Tailbacks, Offers Her Take on Taming a Team.

Team mentality feeds upon itself and spirals in which ever direction it's going. If it's going bad, it keeps getting worse. Sometimes you can spin it back the other way. My first experience with this was terrible and I was very green and couldn't get it under control. I had the baseball team and they were down right atrocious. The straw that broke the camel's back was the day one of them shouted out "I can't stand her voice." I called the coach, who had a reputation for keeping the boys on track academically and expecting more of them behavior wise. The next day they lined up outside my door and one by one, removed their hats, bowed their heads, and fidgeted a little while delivering an apology. I think most of them meant it.

I'm just at this a couple of years now and this term I have the football team. The football coach doesn't have the rep the baseball coach has. He's more of a cartoon of a football coach - lots of yelling and lots of thinking football trumps academics. With just a couple of years experience, the main difference was not that I had some great way of dealing with the behavior, it was just that I caught it before it got out of hand. So instead of calling over and saying "Your boys are out of control and they need to be or I'll put them on Academic Alert and you'll have to play the big rival this weekend without them," I said I was their science prof and I wanted to get some tickets for the game against the big rival for me and my kids.

There's nothing wrong with college sports as long as the kids don't let their academics slide. The problem is that most professors don't understand how hard they work on the field, and their coaches don't understand how hard they need to be working in the classroom. If they want to be star athletes and C students, that is their choice. Yeah, it's not what most of us did. Most of us got our trophies in class. But that's not for everyone.

People talk. A coach can't help himself but talk. And talk and talk and talk. One way or another, the coach can be used. If he respects academics, just have an honest talk with him about the behavior, and chances are he'll talk to the kids the way the baseball coach at my old school did. If he's a football-o-centric 'roid head, use him to get it to your kids that you are aware of their efforts on the field. I asked for 4 tickets and it got back to my kids and now they're well behaved and ridiculously nice to me. If they see me out on campus somewhere, they'll run to open a door for me or ask if they can carry my gigantic pile of books.

I never had to say "your behavior is unacceptable." They just needed to hear that ONE person understands they live in two worlds. Their coach doesn't really get that, and neither do most of their other professors. But they know I'm one of the ones who does. I don't know if that was enough acknowledgment to really change them - they probably save their antics for someone else's class. But if all of their professors found a way to acknowledge their efforts without directly saying "I know you have a lot to do," they wouldn't feel such an urge to rebel against something. And all I know is - I don't have to deal with it anymore. So maybe try that and you won't either.

I can already hear the backlash. "Right, I should give up one more minute of my time for their stupid game rah rah rah don't you know how much grading I have to do!!" I'm not saying anyone owes the kids attendance at their games. I'm just saying that for me, the 3 hour time investment in a football game is less work than the entire semester-long zoo of an alternative. It boils down to the "would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?" logic. They should be good in class. But they might not, so if going to a game can relieve me of that stress, it's worth it.