For our genius hour assignment, I have chosen to incorporate New Pedagogies Deep Learning strategies along with Project-Based Learning into my coaching. As I went through the course readings I realized that these concepts could do more than apply to the classroom, but to sport as well. I am continuously revisiting, reinventing, and experimenting with my teaching practice, but when it comes to my methods of coaching, they have been stagnant.

I have been the junior varsity badminton coach at Maples Collegiate for 9 years now and have coached the team essentially the way that I have been taught; through direct instruction and drills. I have a detailed plan everyday that usually comprises of a warm-up, conditioning, drills/skills work, then games where we get to put those skills to use. Although our team typically has success, at times I feel as though this format for practicing may be outdated and in need of an upgrade.

Based on the course readings I feel that I could approach coaching this team much like I would a classroom. With a student/athlete centered approach where they are in charge of their own learning. Where they can self-assess and to redefine practice time, as Genius Hour (20%) time. My role would be to assist them with where their passions lie, where work needs to be done and offer them guidance while they achieve their goals. By focusing on NPDL, Project-Based learning, and Inquiry based learning, I am hoping that I do more than teach our students the skills to achieve at sport, but to also gain ‘new knowledge’, learn to self assess and create a comprehensive learning strategies that they can take forward in life.

Program Overview

Our badminton team at Maples Collegiate consists of 24 student-athletes. Of the 24, 16 will have the opportunity to compete at the conference championship at the end of April. The team practices 3-4 times a week, and each practice is roughly 2 hours long. There are also an additional 2 tournaments in the month of April that are primarily preparation for the conference championship. The students at Maples are a very dedicated group and are passionate about badminton. The majority of the team also plays on Monday and Friday nights at a drop in badminton club that takes place at Maples Collegiate and is organized through an outside group.
I have been the coach of the badminton team and have been coaching essentially the same way for the past 9 years.  I have made the decision that it was time for a change and thought that after learning what we have in Sustainability and Entrepreneurship, that this would be the perfect opportunity to apply those notions and see how it applies to athletics, coaching, and player development. Below is my blog where I discuss the experience. I hope you enjoy!

Link to Blog:

Genius Hour Blog – Ryan Smithson

Moving Forward

Although I do feel that this was a new and exciting way to coach, I still do feel that I am a long way from incorporating many of the strategies discussed in this course and to making them work best for students. Looking back on the practice template that I created I do see that there is still a large component that is decided by the coach. I would like to eventually make it even more student-lead by offering them the opportunity to work cooperatively to decide a practice format.

I would also like to incorporate technology and sustainability more into the program. Technology is already incorporated to some degree with the use of instructional videos, however I would like to get to a point where we are using technology to record, review and assess our own skills. There is also even potential to create some type of an online community of athletes where they can upload videos of drills, skills, and tactics that could act as some type of resource sharing space.

In terms of Sustainability, I do find it rather limiting to incorporate sustainability in the traditional sense into this setting. That being said, there are still at least 2 ways that forms of sustainability have been addressed. First, the students are now becoming more self-reflective, developing creative confidence, are learning about themselves as learners, and to work collaboratively. All of this will hopefully assist these students in gaining the skills necessary to become innovative, creative social entrepreneurs. They are obtaining a skill set that ideally provides them with the abilities to problem solve, and do more than simply perform what a coach/teacher asks, but are learning to think for themselves, look for problems and work at finding solutions.

The second way it ties to sustainability is that the students are taking part in a healthy and active lifelong endeavor. Playing badminton is an extremely physically demanding sport and has multiple health benefits. Based on experience, when students play for the Junior Varsity team, they go on to play on the Varsity team, and years later I still see them and the local badminton club, or at the gym playing the sport that they have come to love. I can also say that this speaks true for myself. I played in high-school and still enjoy is as a recreational activity with friends. Although staying physically and mentally healthy does not relate to traditional sustainability, it can definitely be incorporated to concepts such as a reduced impact on the health care system, more attention to the foods one eats, more of a willingness to be active on a regular basis and that leads to a healthier lifestyle. All of these benefits can relate to social well-being and social sustainability.

Connections to the Literature

Initially when beginning this project I was not sure how much of what I was doing would relate to the course readings. However, as I progressed I realized more and more how strong the connections were between so many of the concepts discussed throughout our course and class discussions. Playing a sport may not relate to entrepreneurial education directly but many of the skills, habits and attributes that are being developed can be transferred over to multiple outlets as students progress through life.

I was first reminded of Yong Zhoa’s statement about an ideal school where personalization would be one of the key elements. Zhoa stated that personalization enables “students to pursue their passion and strength through student voice and choice, a broad and flexible curriculum, and mentoring and advising.” (Zhoa, Book 2, p4). The way that the badminton program has changed is that it is now highly personalized. In the past it was more of a general program that did not take specific student wants and needs into account, but it does now.

By providing students with the choice of which skills and drills to perform they were given the opportunity to be creative and develop their own practice plans for the individual time. It was mentioned in O’Briens’ Education for Sustainable Happiness and Well-Being that the “essential ingredients for intrinsic motivation are play, passion, and purpose” (p.8) and that is what we are doing on this team.

Tom Kelley and David Kelley discussed creative confidence in The Heart of Innovation. I hope that by providing the students with the opportunity to be develop their own individual practice plans, they may gain some creative confidence and perhaps that trait will transfer over to other aspects of life where students can make changes to the world around them.

In  Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy A Rich Seam they discussed concepts such as students having a role as an equal learning partner, high expectations that are mutually negotiated that are “achieved through challenging deep learning tasks”, and “helping students learn about themselves as learners and continuously assess and reflect upon their own progress is essential…”. These are all concepts that I am hoping will assist my student in taking away more than just badminton skills this season, but a positive educational experience.

Fullan and Langworthy put it best when they stated;

“The goals of deep learning are that students will gain the competencies and despositions that will prepare them to be creative, connected, and collaborative life-long problem solvers and to be healthy, holistic human beings who not only contribute to but also create the common good in today’s knowledge-based, creative, interdependent world.” (p2 )

As the coach I am now trying to act as the activator as opposed to the instructor. I am attempting to no longer be the ‘expert’ on a topic that relays information but rather someone that helps the students strive for excellence, develop a desired skill set, learn how to learn, and be critical of ones self in the sense that they learn where their shortcoming are and how to improve.