The Classroom as a Locker Room: Schoology for Athletic Teams
Originally published on Gameday Every Day
Almost three years ago, I wrote about three different ways that unique advances in classroom technology can help coaches with their teams in a post called The Classroom as a Locker Room. Since then, I have found several other applications that were intended for academic purposes that have great utility for athletics as well. Over the past year, however, I have uncovered my favorite of all in a rather unexpected place.
Schoology, a web-based classroom management tool that was designed for classroom teachers, has a wealth of functionality for athletic coaches and teams. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of using Schoology for athletics is that it is a communication and integration tool that is already familiar to many teacher-coaches and their athletes. If a school has adopted Schoology for academic use, adding athletic functionality increases its value exponentially.
Set up for a team page on Schoology is relatively simple, and, I might add, free of charge. (Some premium features of the site may require a fee.) Once a Schoology team page is created, a process that requires just a few minutes, the roster must be added by the coach or administrator. The amount of time that this can take will vary, of course, based on the size of the team, but when I did this for a team of approximately 25 athletes for the first time, it required less than 10 minutes.
Once the page is created, the home page for the team site can be filled with any one of a number of files—text files of team rules, PDF sketches of team offenses or defenses, links to documents that contain team records or stats, web addresses for various online videos, or directions to opponent home fields just to name a few. Coaches can add discussion topics where players are allowed to comment on everything from an idea for a team t-shirt design to suggestions for motivational quotes before a big game. Coaches can also create team surveys, which Schoology treats as an academic test or a quiz, where players can respond to various coaching prompts without their teammates seeing their responses.
The home page is just the tip of the iceberg for what the site can do, however. Below is a list of other Schoology features that can be easily adapted to fit the needs of coaches and their athletes.
- Calendar—Here coaches can add practices, games, parent meetings, and any other team functions to a calendar. If Schoology is already being used by the school on the academic side, the added bonus of this calendar is that it will organize an athlete’s team schedule right along side their classroom assignments. Players could see, for example, that they have a big game coming up on Thursday, the day before they have three major assignments due during the school day. Synthesizing these schedules for the student-athletes not only enhances their own personal organization but also helps them see athletics as an integrated part of the school curriculum rather than a stand alone program.
- Updates—With the look and feel of a personal Facebook account, this page of the site can communicate messages to all members of the team. Reminders about the location of a game, announcements about rained out practices, or links to information on other websites can go here. A coach could flip the classroom for their instruction and record videos or voice messages for players to see before an upcoming practice. The page also allows team members to post comments or questions under the posts or just “like” the comments that have been posted.
- Badges—In the same way that a football coach can give helmet stickers to players who reach various performance goals during a game, in this area of the site, coaches can recognize athletes that fulfill any number of criteria for recognition. If a coach wants to recognize a player for perfect attendance, outstanding hustle, or breaking a school record in the 100 yard backstroke, all of that can be displayed here.
- Attendance—Similar to an attendance chart for an academic class, this area allows coaches to keep track of absences, both excused and unexcused, as well as late arrivals. Coaches can also record pre-planned absences that their athletes may request for college trips or other personal conflicts.
- Analytics—This area has a great deal of potential for coaches, allowing the page administrator to see what team members have accessed the site and when that access took place. If a coach wants to see if a player has accessed a recent update to the schedule, the coach can log in as an administrator and see the exact time and date of the last login for any team member.
- Workload Planning—Originally designed for teachers to see when assignments are due in other classes, this area allows a coach or site administrator to see what academic assessments are due in each athlete’s classes, assuming again that the site is being used by the classroom teachers during the day. This can allow the coaches to have a better understanding of the day-to-day classroom demands of their athletes and also support the overall academic program of the school. A simple comment to a player as they leave practice wishing them good luck on their history project that may be due the next day sends a powerful message to the athlete that the coach is aware of their academic assignments and supports their efforts in that area.
Schoology provides coaches with a communication method that truly meets athletes at their level, especially if it is a tool that is already in use academically by the school. This tool allows both coaches and classroom teachers to support student-athletes on the same platform. Ultimately, that creates a space that is more effective and meaningful for the student-athletes and sends a message of a more unified mission of education for the institution.
About the Author
James Watts has been the Assistant Director of Athletics for Westminster Schools since 2000 and received his CMAA certification from the NIAAA in 2010. He assists with the day-to-day operations of an athletic program that has over 80 interscholastic teams and 25 varsity sports. He is also the content manager for the Westminster's athletic website and the school's varsity girls lacrosse coach. Jay has also served on the rules committee for girls lacrosse with the National Federation of High Schools since 2007.
Read more of Jay's posts on his blog Gameday Every Day