I've learned a lot about teaching from coaching, and a lot about coaching from teaching. From both, I've learned to be a better referee. And, becoming a better referee on the basketball court has made me a much better teacher.
So, here are the top five things I've learned about teaching from sports:
1) It is not possible for everyone to do everything at the same level. It is our job to identify each child's strengths with them, and help them see how their strengths can be beneficial, to themselves and others. Furthermore, our job includes helping each child further develop their strengths, as well as overcoming their areas of weakness. Our goal is not uniform excellence, but excellence -- this is different for all learners.
2) Very often, we see the reaction, not the instigation, and end up punishing the victim severely, since the reaction is usually an escalation from the instigation. It is our job to be aware enough to recognize a retaliatory action (better yet, see the instigation before there is a retaliation), and address both parties involved more fairly. This does not guarantee freedom from discipline for those who retaliate, but all will see that we are trying to address the whole problem, not just the last person to act.
3) Some children are inspired by defeat, others are crushed by failure. Those who are inspired are easy to teach -- they will always look for a path to success. Those who are crushed believe failure is bad, that it is a measure of their worth -- they must be taught that failure is a necessary part of success, that our reaction to failure determines our fates. All children, however, will learn more from failure/defeat than from success -- if they understand that learning does not come from easy successes, but difficult challenges.
4) Parents don't really understand why you're doing what you do. Everybody believes they understand the job: the drive to find success in every student; the belief in the inherent ability of every student who enters the room; the desire to leave every student's mind fulfilled. They don't, though. Many will challenge what you do and how you do it -- your methods, your values, your evaluations, your assessments, your learning tasks -- because they do not understand that you are trying to meet the needs of all learners and that their child is as special as every other child in your heart. They cannot understand this because, like fan-parents or player-parents, they only see their child and are blind to the experiences of others' children. This is not a bad thing -- parents must protect their children from perceived harm. Do not, however, question yourself only because of the loudest voices in the room. Question yourself daily because some kids are struggling daily.
5) The reward is not measured by money or promotion. The most rewarding experiences are rarely recognized outside of those most directly and intimately involved. Only the student and their teacher know if they've truly met their potential, and we don't need the student to tell us their grateful to reap the benefits of knowing success. (Note: I learned this as an athlete too) Doing well is innately reward enough because we know when we've reached the highest levels of success we are capable of reaching.
Teach, coach, ref...it's all the same to me.