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      I'll bet you never realized that your
      English teacher was pretty much like a coach.

      Making the Writing Team: or, How a Writing Teacher Resembles a Football Coach

      An English instructor and the students in his or her composition class are in some respects like an athletic coach and the freshmen trying out for the team. On the one hand, the writing teacher is mainly involved in drilling his students in the same few basic fundamental skills that elementary, middle, and high school teachers have been trying to develop for at least twelve years. Such matters of correctness as grammar, spelling, punctuation, and mechanics are fundamental to good writing, and a writing teacher trying to refine a student's fundamental writing skills is very much like a football coach trying to refine a young player's fundamental blocking and tackling skills. In other words, the writing teacher's job is more to motivate, to coax, to inspire or even to intimidate his students into strengthening their fundamental skills than it is to teach them entirely new concepts or impart new information. On the other hand, students in a writing class must understand that writing is a performance skill just like playing basketball or football and that the only way to improve is to practice, practice, practice the fundamentals of writing both under the watchful and critical eyes of his writing coach as well as practicing on one's own. Just as no one ever learned to shoot free throws by listening to someone talk about free throws, no one has ever learned to write well by listening to someone talk about writing. The more actual writing one does and the more helpful criticism one receives from the writing teacher, the more progress the writing student will make. Also, just as in sports, the student who is unmotivated or uninterested in practicing writing will never be a very good writer. Is it any wonder that when I think about the similarities between coaching a sport and teaching writing, I sometimes feel like coming to class with a coach's whistle dangling around my neck?

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