“Let’s Concentrate on the ‘Special Ones'”

I have to admit that I was definitely a contender for “Best Dad” when my boys were growing up!  I signed up to coach everything.  For those who know me well, I can still hear the laughs, as I signed up to coach my son’s pee-wee football, basketball, and soccer teams!  My thought was that instead of sitting on the sidelines, I would take an active role in my child’s interests!

Luckily, Lance Etzwiler had a son the same age as mine.  Lance was a teacher in the district like me, but he had previous coaching experience with his older child.  So, for my first time coaching, I knew I’d be in good hands with a veteran who had some years under his belt.

Being the technology guy that I am, I went straight to the internet to watch videos and download drills to coach a bunch of 5-year old soccer players.  (I still marvel that the simple game of “Go, Fetch” prompted giggles and boundless energy to run down a soccer ball and dribble it back after Lance and I launched them in all directions!)

Before our first practice, I was prepared:

  • Dribbling drills. Check.
  • Passing drills. Check.
  • Shooting drills. Check.
  • Defense dills. Check.
  • Throw-ins. Check.
  • Goalie drills. Check.

I had drills labeled by index card and even laminated!  in eager anticipation for Lance before the first practice, I got to the fields early.  Admiring my trunk filled with soccer balls, cones, jerseys, clipboards (still don’t know why I had five of them), and my bright, shiny whistle, I anxiously waited for Lance.  As soon as Lance pulled up, I had to remind myself to act cool and not be too anxious.  While pointing towards the field and my organized trunk, I asked him where we should begin.  Without hesitation, he pointed towards the parking lot and said, “Let’s concentrate on the ‘special one’.”

The special ones?  We are about to have 16 rugrats show up with the desire to kick things, and he is staring at the cars?

With the most fake, calm tone I could muster, I asked him what he meant.

“I like to watch the kids and the parents, and how they interact.  Look, I’m not going to interact as much with your son, because I know you got him.  But, I want focus on the kids who might need some extra attention through encouragement and praise.  I like to focus on the ‘special ones’.”

My mind was blown.  Here I had been focusing on the game of soccer, and forgot the real reason to do anything – to build students up!  Too often we have this same mentality as educators in the classroom.  In the next few weeks, we will be busy running around to purchase classroom items and focus on our classroom bulletin boards and reading areas.  While that’s important, like my well organized soccer-equipped trunk, we can’t miss the real reason we are with our students.  It’s easy to get caught up in focusing on tasks, but that’s just the background.  Don’t miss the real reason we do what we do.

While I was concentrating on setting up for the practice, Coach Etzwiler wanted to observe the interaction between parent and child.  He wanted to see which of the children were excited, and which were nervous.  He wanted to know if the students were prepared with the proper shoes and ball.

What happens when students are entering your class for the first time or the middle of the school year.  Are you busy setting up for a lesson or checking your email?  No one would question your hard work or desire to be efficient with you time.  Or, are you greeting students at the door engaging with them and asking them questions to collect information to help make it the best day for them?  So, as we prepare for the next year, be sure to concentrate on the “special ones”!


  1. Great post! It also makes me think how important it is for administrators to do that with new employees.

    Pat Farrenkopf

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