sitemap Introduction to Athletic Coaching


Middletown High School
200 Schoolhouse Drive
Middletown, MD 21769
Phone: 240-236-7400
Fax: 240-236-7450

Coaches' Corner

"Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate."
- Vince Lombardi
Photo by Bill Green
Middletown High students, from left, Will Benton, Greg Norman and Justin Boyer encourage two young students to work their way along a climbing wall.

Coaching 'em up

Originally published June 04, 2009
By John Cannon
News-Post Staff

One day, Middletown High School junior Melissa Shirley would like to be a coach.

Maybe she'll coach a high school or college team, perhaps in basketball or track and field.

Sure, Shirley's experiences as an athlete will help in that endeavor -- she's competed in track and field and basketball for the Knights. But she has a more comprehensive source of preparation.

Shirley took Introduction to Athletic Coaching, a class Frederick County Public Schools started offering this school year.

In a class taught by Tim Leber, who coaches Middletown 's boys basketball team, Shirley learned the coaching essentials: how to plan, teach, lead, encourage, discipline and motivate.  The course also allows her to get hands-on experience by coaching Middletown Elementary students in sports like soccer and basketball.

Such skills complement the knowledge she's gained from being a competitive athlete, providing a foundation for her coaching future.

"This gives you another perspective," Shirley said.  "I also helped coach basketball for the Special Olympics.  Through the classroom, it helped me show these kids what they can do, bring the best out of them."

Leber and Frederick County supervisor of athletics Lynn Carr were instrumental in the formation of this elective physical education class.  Neither was aware of such a coaching class being offered by any nearby county, although colleges have them.

"In our community, and in a lot of the communities in our county, there's a great deal of interest in athletics," Leber said.  "So, you've got a lot of kids who are interested in this kind of thing, and it's just another way to give them some leadership skills and to give them some more information how to work with people in an athletic environment."

Aside from Middletown , Brunswick , Frederick , Linganore , Tuscarora and Walkersville offered Introduction to Athletic Coaching this school year.  Brett Stark, FCPS Curriculum Specialist for Secondary Physical Education and Health, said about 200 students took the class.  He said students from Brunswick , Frederick , Thomas Johnson, Linganore , Middletown , Tuscarora, Urbana and Walkersville enrolled for the upcoming school year.

"We have a strong enrollment this year and even stronger enrollment for the next school (year)," Carr said.  "It has been well-received. Our teachers in the schools have done a great job putting it together.  We've done things in curricular workshops in the summertime to prepare the curriculum and the lessons."

The roots of the class spring from a future coaches club at Middletown, which Leber started in 2006.  Over 90 students a year participated in the club.

"As we were doing activities during the club sessions, all the kids and myself kind of looked at each other and said, 'It would be neat to turn this into a class,'" Leber said.

Carr liked the idea, and the class was added to the curriculum for this school year.  Here was a physical education class that also prepared local athletes to give back know-how to the athletic community that enriched them during their playing days.

"One of the things we talked about over the years, we would like to encourage and hope to get back some of our former athletes and students to become coaches for us.  Not only in the public school system, but also in the youth leagues," Carr said.

In the future, many of these students will probably coach their own children.

"And it could be in a sport that they have not a clue about," Leber said.  "But they'll at least have some background working with kids and leadership and managing youngsters and their behavior."

Some students who take this class already dabble in coaching.  Take Middletown junior Marc Cardin, who coaches an 11-12-year-old ice hockey team at Skate Frederick.  The course opened his eyes to behind-the-scenes work put in by successful coaches.

"It astonished me how many hours you have to put in as a coach, all the planning and the looking at film," Cardin said.  "Coaching younger kids, I don't really have film.  You just go by what you see in the game.  It's amazing how many hours a coach has to put in breaking down film."

Students are taught by experienced high school coaches.  Leber's a longtime winning basketball coach.  John Grim -- who taught the class at Linganore -- not only won state titles in cross country and track in his 33 years of coaching, he also hired and mentored young coaches as a former athletic director.  Mark Wolcott -- who taught the class at Tuscarora -- won state titles in girls soccer.

"Our students are getting an opportunity to literally learn from the best," Stark said.

Those teachers plan lessons and activities, and they have a textbook to utilize.  Units of study run the gamut of coaching, including leadership style, communication, nutrition and common sports injuries.

"This course is a great foundation for a young person," Grim said.

Grim's students did everything from making a budget to planning a yearly training schedule.  His class also spent a week on the grieving process, touching on the death of athletes or their family members.  He used the film "We Are Marshall" as a centerpiece.

At Middletown, Leber stresses John Wooden's four laws of learning: explanation, demonstration, imitation and repetition.

Students practice that last guideline, repetition, by teaching their main sport to classmates.  Most who take this class are athletes, but many play different sports than their classmates.

"It's neat to watch a girls volleyball player teaching a bunch of football players how to bump properly," Leber said.  "And they don't do it that well.  But because of the good teaching they receive, they end up having success doing it through a lot of repetition."

Aside from instructing their peers, Middletown students get invaluable experience by working with younger students at Middletown Elementary.  Proximity helps -- those schools are within walking distance of each other.  Leber said Middletown Elementary physical education teacher Pat Fisher helped make this inter-school partnership succeed.

Leber's students ran basketball and soccer tournaments and held skills stations for the younger students.  Shirley enjoyed using her newfound coaching knowledge.

"It's so rewarding helping them and watching them grow," Shirley said.  "Even if it's just a day or a couple minutes, just watching them smile and learn from you -- and it's also helped me to be a positive person."

Middletown students also went on field trips to Shepherd University and Mount St. Mary's, where they got insight from college coaches.  Leber had Hood men's basketball coach Tom Dickman and longtime Frederick County diving coach John Smith as guest speakers.

In December, Stark arranged a roundtable meeting with those who already taught or were planning to teach Introduction to Athletic Coaching.  Ideas were exchanged.  This was useful because each teacher had unique ways of building a student's coaching foundation.

Grim had guest speakers visit each Friday.  He tried to get every Linganore head coach to speak, and his students asked questions and engaged in in-depth discussions.  This helped them form a coaching philosophy.

"Because we all steal from each other," said Grim, a coach who routinely applies the very knowledge he's passing on to students.  "It's the most relevant thing I've ever taught."

The course seems to be in demand.

"I had a student ask me if there was a second class," said Ryan Hines, who teaches the class and coaches football at Walkersville.

Introduction to Athletic Coaching