I’m at my daughter’s synchronized swimming Provincials. She just finished her combo routine and there is over an hour wait for her Team routine. Having trained for water polo just one pool bulkhead away from National level synchronized swimmers, I’ve always had high regard for their athleticism. With my daughter training 22+ hours a week this past year, that high regard has increased. She does far more cross-training (outside the pool), with strength conditioning and flexibility, than I’ve seen in most sports, and the blend of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning is exceptional, (my 14 year old daughter recently held her breath for over 2 minutes & 20 seconds while sculling across the pool and maintaining her upside-down kneeling position with knees-to-toes at the surface).

Synchro 1


The training is significant, but when all is said and done, a routine is over in under 5 minutes as an accumulation of a year’s worth of practice. Perfection is impossible. There is always room to improve, and hard work is an essential component to success. So too is team camaraderie, good coaching, and to some extent natural talent (though hard work can compensate for talent to a certain level as my water polo career exemplified). There are many aspects that need to come together for a final presentation.

In thinking about student inquiries at Inquiry Hub Secondary School, I think of the messy nature of inquiry learning, as well as the importance of learning from failure. Watching the synchronized swimming competition today has left me wondering about what kinds of structures we can build to help train our students as they do their inquiry learning dance.

For example:

  1. We know students struggle with developing good questions. What can we do as a team of learners to support this? Rather than coaching students individually, what ‘training‘ can we implement so that we can ‘work together as a team of learners‘?
  2. Learning in depth is a challenge. We have built a culture in schools of getting to an answer quickly. What habits of mind can we ‘practice‘ to help students see good questions not as a means to a Googleable answer, but rather as a spark to ignite new questions and possible iterations?
  3. How do we raise the expectations and quality of the final presentations of work? A key part of our inquiry process is expressing and sharing what we have learned. What can we do to showcase student work in meaningful venues? What forms of feedback can we provide along the way so that we are ‘conditioning‘ students to seek both feedback and audiences for their work?

I think it would serve us well as educators using an inquiry model with students to think of ourselves like coaches. The conditioning is cross-curricular, the practice needs to be purposeful, and the training is ongoing, with opportunities to improve many skills throughout the process. Coming up with a good final product is important, but it’s the day-to-day training and practice where we really need to be providing feedback and good coaching.

Developing good questions, learning in depth and executing final presentations are just three of a number of areas where we need to continually coach and train students on their quest to ask good questions, to seek rich and compelling answers, and to share what they have learned beyond the school walls. What structures and strategies do you use to coach your students on their journey? What skills do you explicitly train your students to do well? How often do they get to practice these skills? I think these are inquiries that we all need to focus in on, as our students explore their own inquiries.

As a final thought, I think students also need to see us coaching each other in order to help them understand that the learning never ends.


5 comments on “Training and Coaching

  1. It turns out we have more in common that I knew. After many seasons at the pool, my eldest has retired from competition but continues to coach. In the end, it’s incredible what synchro swimmers are able to accomplish when they specialize. After winning silver then gold in national level competitions, daughter number one’s rewards are in memory only. One of the last sets of competition photos I posted is still online http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecleversheep/sets/72157625686360314/

    1. Hi Rodd,
      The photo set is marked as private.
      For me it was water polo. Last off the bench in Grade 11, with no swim background other than jumping through waves in Barbados. By Grade 13, I was player coach for my team. My coaching at the club level is what led me into education. I don’t think the sport chosen is as important as the experience in trying your best in a sport you love, and wanting to give back to that sport. All my medals as a player and coach are in a box somewhere in my garage, even if I found the box, I don’t think I labelled the medals properly… indeed it is the memories that are the true reward.

  2. Hi David! My name is Brittney Kent and I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I have never thought about coaching being the same or almost the same as teaching. When you think about we are coaching students. Especially in the lower grades, such as kindergarten-2nd grade. These students are just learning how to write their letters and numbers and learning how to read. We have to coach them on how to does this, and they have practice over and over in order to memorize how to say and write those letters and words.
    When you said, “…but it’s the day-to-day training and practice where we really need to be providing feedback and good coaching,” I totally agree. I’m going to stick with using the lower grades as my examples because I am an elementary education major. When we allow are students to practice and/or train, and we give them positive feedback, such as a “Great Job!” or “You are doing so great, I want you to read more to me” all let the student know that you are proud of them and will want them to work even harder on the next steps of learning!
    I really enjoyed your post, and look forward to visiting your blog again to read more! You are more than welcome to view my blog: http://kentbrittneyedm310.blogspot.com, I will be commenting on another post next week, and will be writing a summary of your posts along with my comments here in a few weeks, so keep a lookout for those!

    Brittney Kent

  3. David, I really enjoyed the article “How Not to Talk to Your Kids.” I have always heard from multiple people that you should never use the words, “Wow! You’re really smart!” to a young child who is just learning, but I never knew why. This article completely explains why to me! I have heard young children go up to one of his/her classmates, and say “she just said I was really smart,” then sit down and act like they’re the coolest child ever. I also never knew there was so much research behind this. I will most definitely be watching what I say in front of my students in the future! Thank you for sharing this with me, like I said, I really enjoyed it!


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