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I’m a big believer in the importance of building cultural capital with kids when you coach or teach. If kids believe that you care about them, it is much easier for them to buy in to the things that you ask them to do. Also, getting to know the kids that you work with is really among the most enjoyable aspects of coaching or teaching so it is beneficial on two fronts. Building cultural capital is about letting kids know that you believe in them and that you care about them but it is also about understanding where they are coming from.
This can be a challenge for a white, Ivy League graduate who is trying to coach kids from a largely Hispanic community with a high school graduation rate of 50% but it doesn’t have to be. I watched a documentary last night about a inner-city high school football team and their volunteer coach. The film is called Undefeated and you can stream it on Netflix.
I was moved by the entire movie but I was especially interested in the cultural capital that the coach had built up with each of his players. Even though the coach came from a totally different background from the kids and even though he sometimes said things that some would interpret as insensitive, the kids were bought into the messages that he was sending. To me, the key was authenticity and affection. This particular coach was absolutely authentic, he did not fake any emotions or pay lip service to his kids. He truly believed in the way that football could impact these young men and he was committed to that goal. Any one can buy into a leader with that level of commitment to a set of ideals; even kids that are totally different from the coach. In addition, this coach had a genuine affection for each of his kids that they could not deny. Authenticity and affection are qualities that can go a long way when building cultural capital with young athletes. At MetroLacrosse, we are always trying to build meaningful relationships with our kids and their families and this film is a great example to us. A lot of times it is about understanding cultural differences like why a child might not be making eye contact when he or she is being disciplined or why he might be late to practice because he had to watch his younger sister while his mother worked her second job. Taking the time to get to know the kids and understanding where they are coming from is really crucial and when these factors are combined with and authentic coach who demonstrates a deep affection for his players, much can be accomplished.
What are your thoughts about cultural capital and coaching?