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Coach is a short, but meaningful book about high school athletics written by Michael Lewis. It is a great introduction to a unit on high school sports. My class reads the book quietly in class. It usually takes 2 – 3 class periods. If you have a large enough library, you might consider bringing your students to read in this environment.
Since my class consists of students with a wide-range of reading abilities, I couple this activity with selecting an “outside reading book.” So if an advanced reader completes the book quickly, the student can spend some time selecting a book of personal interest from the school library. Once the book is selected the student can start reading.
After reading the book, the students will respond to the some of the following writing prompts. As a teacher, you can select specific prompts.
Writing Prompts
1. “There are teachers with the rare ability to enter a child’s mind. It’s as if their ability to get there at all gives them the right to stay forever. I’d once had such a teacher. His name was Billy Fitzgerald” (page 12) Write the underlined words as the first sentence to your letter. Write a letter to a teacher / coach who has had the biggest impact on your life. Tell them what is going on in your life today, plans for next year, etc. Explain the activity and explain the influence the person has had on you. Describe the lessons you learned, the characteristics you like about the person, and the life long lessons you will take with you. TARGET GOAL: 1.25  – 2 pages. Show the teacher your finished letter (15 points)
2. “Fitz had grown increasingly upset until after the final game, he’d gone around the room and explained what was wrong with each and everyone of them. One player had skipped practice and lied about why: another blamed everyone but himself for his failure; a third wasted his talent to pursue a life of ease; a fourth had agreed before the summer to lose fifteen pounds and instead gained ten.” (page 14 – 15) What are your thoughts on these issues with players? How should a coach address these flaws? Why is it necessary to have team rules? What are some of the team rules you agree with / disagree with?
3. “I am not sure how many of us thought we hit a triple, but quite a few had been born on third base… “The parents’ willingness to intercede on the kids’ behalf, to take the kids side, to protect the kid, in a not-healthy way – there’s more of that each year [the principal] said. “It’s true in sports, it’s true in the classroom.” (page 18) Do you agree with the principal’s comments? Would this be an accurate statement about Hanover parents? Explain.
4. “This was Fitz talking; and I can still recall, thirty years later, the sensation he created in me. I didn’t have words for it the, but I do now: I am about to show the world and myself, what I can do.(page 30)
Have you ever had a defining moment like this [pitching in a critical situation] where you realized that you could excel at the sport you played or the activity you participated in?
5. “His unmodified behavior is the reason his former players hoped to name the gym for him… The collective response of Fitz’s former players could be fairly summarized in one sentence: Fitz changed my life.(page 34)
Do you have a person who you feel has “changed your life?” Describe.
6. “Unlike some coaches – for whom it’s all about winning and losing – Coach Fitz was trying to make men out of people. I think he prepares you for life. And, if you want my opinion, the people who are screwing up high school sports are the parents.” – Eli Manning (page 40-41) NFL Quarterback & Super Bowl Champion – Comment on the underlined section. Defend or criticize this statement. Give examples to support your position.
7. “Success to Fitz was a process” (page 45) Apply this to your athletic career (or academic, music, etc.). Explain the process of how you “succeeded” in the classroom, in athletics, or in other activities – music, art, drama, etc.
8. “I’ll tell you where Michael Lewis was: skiing!… privilege corrupts.” (page 48-49)
Have you ever had a defining moment like this where you realized that you could excel at the sport you played?  OR Players miss practices and games for family vacations. At the varsity level should this be acceptable? If you think it is not acceptable what should be the punishment?
9. “The baseball had broken my nose in 5 places.” (page 50) Describe in detail the sports injuries that you have had and the impact they have had on you.
10. “I had a new taste for staying after practice, for extra work… Not long after that, the English teacher who also had the misfortune to experience me as a freshman held me after class to say that, by some happy miracle, I was not recognizably the same human being I had been a year earlier. “What happened?” she asked. It was hard to explain.” (page 50) Success and involvement in extra-curricular activities often translates into success in the classroom. Do you agree doing well in an extra-curricular activity can often translate into better performances in other areas of your life? Have you experienced this? Why do you think this is true?
11. “His players now had fancy batting cages, better weight rooms, the latest training techniques, and scouting reports on opposing players.” (page 53-54) Describe your training and development. Have you received specialized training or used modern equipment?
12. “Every time I try [to help a player understand the “it”] the parents get in the way.” About these parents, he knows more than I ever imagined. Alcoholism, troubled marriages, overbearing fathers – he is disturbingly alert to problems in his players’ home lives.” (page 55) In some cases, coaches provide stability and security that a player cannot find at home. A player’s family is often a huge factor in discipline, work ethic, sportsmanship, and overall attitude? Do you agree? Give examples to support your position.
13. “Some of them will never understand the responsibility they have to their teams and themselves.” (page 62) What does this mean?
14. “All this is about a false sense of self-esteem. It’s bestowed on kids at birth. It’s not earned. If I were to jump all you today, you would be highly insulted and deeply offended. You would not get that I cared about you.” (page 62) What are your thoughts?
15. “My goal in life is not for my son to play college ball. Fitz has made my kid a better person, not just a better athlete. He’s taught him that if he works at it, any he wants, it’s there for him.” (page 67) Parent of underclassman who worked hard. It seems like this parent has a good overall perspective of the role sports in a student-athlete’s life. Do you feel some parents have an unrealistic perspective of sports and how talented their child is? Explain using examples.
16. “They don’t like me because I work hard? Because I care about it? I’m like I can’t change that.” (page 68) Jeremy Bleich Why is it looked down on to be a “practice hero”? How important is team chemistry? Why do other athletes not like or have jealousy towards committed athletes?
17. “Eight players got caught drinking. All but one of them – two team captain’s, two members of the school’s honor committee – lied about it before confessing under duress.” (page 70) MIAA rules and penalties. Hanover (like many schools) has had its fair share of MIAA violations for drinking and using drugs. The goal of the policy is to stop athletes from destructive behavior. Why do you think student-athletes are not able to make sacrifices in their use of alcohol and drugs to have a better individual and team season?
18. “We are not washing them (the uniforms] until we win.” (Page 75) OLD SCHOOL
19. “We alone were on this hellish quest for self-improvement.(page 77) Isn’t this what sports and life is all about, “self-imporvement?” Describe some ways you improve as student, athlete, and a person.
20. “The breaking of things was the symptom. The disease was the sheer effort the man put into his job of making us better.” (page 78) Describe a person who is extremely committed and passionate about a sport (or other interest).

21. “Looking at a team that now stood 1 – 12… He was teaching us something far more important: how to cope with the two greatest enemies to a well-lived life, fear and failure.” (page 82) Not all athletic teams can be successful. Some teams will have losing records? What can be realized and learned from these experiences?
22. “The Times-Picayune had just picked the Newman Greenies to win another state championship. The only hitch is that they no longer had nine eligible players. The drinking suspensions had made them less than a baseball team. It was a glorious Saturday afternoon and the team was meant to be playing a game, but the game had been forfeited.” (page 83 – 84)
23. “One of the goodies about athletics is you get to find out if you can stretch. If you can get better. But you got to push. And you guys don’t even push to get through the day. You put more effort into parties than you do this team.” (page 87) A good work ethic is essential to success in athletics, school, and life. Evaluate your work ethic and the work ethic of the Hanover High teams you have been involved with.
24. “You earn the right to play.” (page 88) Give examples where you or your teammates REALLY earned the right to play.
25. “You never give up on a team. Just like you never give up on a kid. But it’s going to take some work.” (page 90) The challenge of a coach is to help the team reach it’s potential. Describe one of your teams and the process of constantly working to achieve.