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Feb. 15, 2022

Meeting Kids Where They're at w/Kelly Henkel

Meeting Kids Where They're at w/Kelly Henkel

#28. Currently an  AP Human Geography and Human Geography at Lake Zurich High School in Lake Zurich, IL, Kelly Henkel has 15 years of public-school education and coaching experience.  He places an emphasis on building relationships with students and the community in order to recruit/retain students athletically and in the classroom.  Kelly believes that the role of a teacher and coach should be to help students and athletes become the best versions of themselves in the future, which is done by creating an inclusive environment in classrooms and on teams, while teaching the value and importance of being a great teammate. In this episode, we discuss:

  • Building rapport with students and athletes
  • Understanding what culture looks like
  • Vulnerability as a leader
  • Unique approach to coaching youth sports
  • Meeting students where they are at

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Transcript

Luke:

This is episode 28 of The "I" in Win podcast.

Kelly:

You know, as much as I think we'd like to say our culture is what's on the banner. We need to understand that the actions of the adults, the actions of the kids who are in the building or the members of your team, that, that really is your culture.

Luke:

Hello everyone. And welcome to another edition of the "I" in Win. Really excited to welcome on our guest today. Kelly Henkel, who is a teacher and coach at Lake Zurich High School and Lake Zurich, Illinois. He's also a close personal friend of mine, and I'm really excited to dive into multiple topics that him and I talk about all the time on the phone and decided, Hey, this would make a great podcast episode. So Kelly, thanks for being.

Kelly:

Hey coach. Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.

Luke:

Well, look forward to solving the ills of the world with your buddy. We do it. every time we talk on the phone. So

Kelly:

Yeah. Like we always do.

Luke:

Yeah, absolutely. First I want to start with is something that I want to compliment you on. You are really good at establishing rapport with your kids in your classroom. What do you do to make kids feel comfortable and valued in your classroom? Because it's clearly done intentionally on your end as a teacher.

Kelly:

Yeah, I think there's, um, it's a really good question. I think there's a lot of adults who really truly believe, especially coaches and teachers that like the culture of your classroom, the culture of your team always has to come first. And I I'm saying. Really tries to practice what I preach. And, you know, the first couple of days in class, the first couple of practices, like you have to try to establish the culture of your room. And like you were saying that like I've built this culture in my classroom that I feel like is a, is a very positive culture. And it's something that my former students who had probably a test too as well. But I think right away, you have to be as real as you can be in front of the kids. And they've got to understand that. You're just another human being in the world who makes mistakes and who is as human as everyone else. They get a chance to see some of my social media stuff because I'm pretty open on social media, especially with my professional life and a little bit with my personal life. And it's okay that they understand you're, you're having a bad day and those kinds of things at the beginning of the year talk about kind of the. The thing that I guess makes you kind of human. And I think there's something to be said about understanding. The background of each student and understanding kind of like what makes them, makes them tick a little bit, because everyone's bringing different stuff to your class. Everyone's bringing different stuff to your team. Um I listened to one of your, one of your, uh, episodes here and I, I heard you dove into Ted Lasso. So as cool as Ted lasso is I think it's, uh, it's, it's, it's full of all sorts of like coach's items, right? Like the belief stuff and, uh, you know, making everybody the best version of themselves on and off the field, which is stuff that great coaches do. And everybody that's in the coaching world and the teaching world, we all know that stuff too. Um, and, and that stuff that a lot of us believe in, but there's something I've taken away from that, series and it's that everyone has something going on in their life. And if you watch that, watch that show really closely. Every single character has something going on in their life. And. It's really interesting as you watch the show because like little nuggets of it come out over time. And that's really what, like in a classroom, that's kind of how it works, especially with you get, you know, 120 kids at the beginning of a year, and you've got to slowly kind of dig these little nuggets about those kids. I, I think there's a lot of ways to kind of unpack some of those things with kids. I think doing a survey at the beginning of the year and asking kids: how do you like to learn? You know, what are the things you need to be successful? What do I need to know before I teach you? You'd be shocked. What kids will report to an adult that they've only met once or twice. Like, they'll bring up stuff like, Hey, I'm from a family, that's had this kind of stuff going on. I've got a parent with a health issue and right away, like, you know, like this is what they've got going on. Sometimes it, it happens a little bit more organically over time, and I think it's important to have as many individual conversations with kids. I'm the kind of teacher that likes to kneel down next to a desk when I'm helping a kid. And yeah you're helping them with whatever problem they're on or they're trying to learn, but it's also okay to ask them how they're doing and it's okay to, you know, dig a little deeper with some of those kids and kind of find out what makes them tick. And I think once you. Understand more of that stuff. It is so much easier to teach them. It's so much easier to coach them. And then when you're comfortable being a little bit vulnerable in front of them, because they've been a little bit vulnerable in front of you, it really creates a cohesiveness in your room where that kid feels comfortable bringing things to you and they know that I might be having a stressful day because I was up, you know, three times in the middle of the night with a three-year-old who was having bad dreams or something like that. And they get to see a little bit of that. They're comfortable with it too, but I think, I think that's part of it on a, team I think it's really important for coaches to have those conversations with their players and it can be organic. It can be, you know, in a film room, it can be during warmups. One of my favorite parts of warmups is walking through the line of kids and you've, you've seen what my practices look like, but for those who've never been in my practice, you know, my warmups or. Are pretty, pretty regimented it all. We we've got lines. Kids go to the same lines every day, they're warming up. But I also get to walk through those lines and ask kids how they're doing. There might be a kid on your team. Nobody in the building has asked them how their day is bad and you're the first person to actually ask and take that interest. And that matters to that kid. And that way, when they they're actually having something that's going on, that's kind of rough for them, they can kind of vent that to you a little bit. They can tell you about the quiz that didn't go so hot. They can tell you about the trouble they're in with their parents and how they're having a tough time with that relationship. They're okay. Telling you that because you've had so many of those interactions before, but I think you have to take advantage of those opportunities. And I think that really helps it, especially at the beginning of the year or the beginning of the season really helps build that rapport between the teacher and the students or between a coach and their athletes.

Luke:

Yeah. And you could tell from your answer, you're very passionate about that. And you actually jumped the gun on me a little bit and getting into the realm of athletics, but we're going to come back to that. And there are many things to unpack from your response. Let's go back to the Ted lasso thing and how they really examine every character. And to your point, everyone has stuff in their life. And what I loved about season two is they showed the vulnerability of Ted. Because, and I know you probably feel this at times, too, as a leader of young people, you know, you always have to give your best effort and put forth a happy face, but there are moments that you don't feel like that. And we're human beings too. And sometimes it's hard to show that side of us. So I agree with you. I, I love that part of the show that as great. And as motivating and as positive as Ted lasso is, he's a human with real issues as well. And he needs help and. he's, he needs to learn how to ask for help. So I absolutely love that piece to the show.

Kelly:

It. And it's so hard because as a, as a leader, especially of young people, you have to be on all of the time. As soon as you step out of your car in the morning. You're on for the rest of the day until you get in your car and you can go home. And, you know, and I think there's something to be said about all those characters that they started really unpacking in season two, because how many professionals have you worked with? Uh, you've seen them on. In front of the kids, but you know, they're going through something in their personal life. And we need to have a very big perspective here, especially in, in schools or in teams. Everybody's dealing with something like everyone is. And some of those things might be kind of minor in the grand scheme of things, but it may not be minor to that person. That might be the big thing and they're in their life at that moment. And I think having that perspective, you know, the kid might come in late to class. Well, they're coming in late to class because they're in trouble with the deans and there's already stuff going on. And you know what? You need to understand that as a teacher and you know, what, if you're having the kneel down conversation instead of the. The confrontation from across the room. I think it goes a long way with building that rapport with students. I really do.

Luke:

Yeah, completely agree. And to your point that, although it's a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, it's really important to an individual at that time. I know, one thing that I have mistakenly done is be dismissive of the high school breakup, because we know as adults this stuff happens, you know, you see a kid kind of moping around and he, or she is just not themselves. And you ask what's the matter and they'll explain all I, I broke up with my boyfriend, my girlfriend, whatever the case may be. And sometimes as an adult, you're just dismissive because you're like, well, you're probably, weren't going to make it anyway. And we forget that at that moment in that individual's life. The sky is falling and it is a big deal and it really does matter. And you have to try to see it through the lens of of that person. And you'll have a better understanding of the magnitude of that event that you may think is a little event, right. But that's the challenge. Seeing things through the lens of somebody else is really difficult to do with.

Kelly:

Absolutely. And, and, and sometimes it's, it's hard to see through your own lens. My human geography students, we do this really cool activity at the beginning of the year and it's cheesy, but I think it speaks kind of volumes in my, students will tell you from the. No, this is something they, they really kind of took with them the rest of the year. But, um, we do a little bit of a lens unpacking at the beginning of the year. And we put a big circle on a sheet of notebook paper, and the kids have to write down all those things that kind of cloud up their lens. And you'd be surprised what kids will put in there. You know, when they put in. I have step parents and step grandparents and I go to five Thanksgivings and four Christmases. And that's, you know, that's not my experience growing up, but that's their experience. That's how they have to see the world. And to understand that that's the lens, they view it through, you know, the relationship thing that you just brought up. I mean, that might be the first time that kid in their whole life has ever been rejected by another person ever and their whole life. And that those are really hard feelings to kind of navigate, I mean, you and I have been through it, we've been told no by plenty of people, you know, I've been told no in interviews I've been told

Luke:

in my life, Kelly.

Kelly:

Yeah. I mean, it's like, I've been told no more than I've been told. Yes. And I've learned how to process those things. So to me, that's not that big of a deal, but to that 14 year old kid, that's getting rejected for the first time in their whole life, by another human. That's hard for them to kind of process and unpack. So I think it's important. Yeah, you're right. It's important to have that lens understand. You know, in their eyes, that was a really big moment in their life. So far now in the grand scheme, 40 years from now, it will not be, but up until that, you know, that 15th year, that was a big deal.

Luke:

Absolutely. And getting back to how we started this conversation was rapport and you talk about building rapport in the classroom, and then you jumped ahead and. Talking about athletics. So let's just talk about the positive result that comes from building that rapport with students in the classroom, building rapport with athletes on the field. What have you seen as the positive benefit to that and how it changes the dynamics of both the classroom and the athletics?

Kelly:

Yeah. So in my opinion, once you've kind of established that relationship with your students. Okay. And you have to understand, are you, are you going to have a incredibly deep relationship with every single student? No. Some kids comfortable yet having that deep relationship with another adult in their life. They're okay with their parents and maybe like some other immediate family members, but they're not ready for another adult in their life to have that depth on them yet. And that's okay. But what it allows you to do, it allows you to respond. It allows you to see a kid and know, Hey, Something isn't quite right with that kid today. And I think it's funny when you talk to a kid, you're like, Hey, would you okay today? Like what's going on? And they look at you and they're like, well, how did you know. Well, because I've been working at this relationship with you for the last several months. And I can see that there's something a little different today than in the last several weeks or months, um, an athlete that you and I, Bob both had the opportunity to coach. He was having a rotten rotten practice, and this is not an athlete who has rotten practices. And I'm watching this guy and I'm watching this guy. And, you know, there was a moment where he was kind of by himself and I walked over to him and. What's her name, buddy. And he goes, what do you mean? I go what's her name that causing you to have this bad practice? And he stared back to me and he goes, how did you know that? Like, how did you know? And I was like, well, I've been paying attention. Like I've been, we've been talking about this for months and there's clearly something yet. He was going through a relationship issue with the girlfriend. And you know what, by having all those conversations and digging hard on that kid, Understanding how he ticks, I saw it right away, but I think it allows a coach or a teacher to be proactive. And you understand that, like, that kid's having a bad day because you know what your practice wasn't the priority in his head. Like he was still stuck in whatever funk that he was in from earlier in the day. And I think it's important for coaches out there to understand that like, yeah, yo you and I, we can turn it on and off. And once we go onto the field it's on and I'm in coach mode. High schoolers, middle schoolers. They're still learning how to do that. And they're not all at the same level and how to switch into go mode for sports versus, you know, school. It takes time and practice. And I get to coach a lot of freshmen. So, they're the most raw at that with their ability to turn it on and off and go from school to practice mode. Um, and you know, a lot of. Emotions from the day and a lot of the disappointments and those kinds of things, you know, they carry them onto the field, but you know what, if you get to know your kids the right way and you understand what makes them tick and you know that like, Hey, you know, they've been working hard at Spanish and there was a Spanish quiz today, and that kid's having a bad practice. Well, guess what? He probably didn't do so hot on that Spanish quiz. You need to understand that and unpack it with them. And then you suggest a resource. Talk to them about who they can talk to you. And I both know kids on a varsity team who are getting an a in Spanish who could probably help that freshmen. Who's really struggling in Spanish, connect them with the resource and that kid will appreciate that help more than anything.

Luke:

So a couple things that you mentioned that I want to make light of. The word yet. I like your growth mindset. I see. You're really intentional with the word yet. The other word you used a lot was culture. You said it about four times and two sentences. That is an often misunderstood word in today's world. Okay. And it's gets confused with slogan. And I talk about this with a lot of guests. What is culture to you? What does it mean? What's it look like? How do you instill it? I know I asked like four questions and this is huge. Just a condensed version of your definition of culture and what it looks like.

Kelly:

Sure. So the two, we'll talk about that yet thing in just a minute, because that's something that, I feel pretty passionately about, but the, the culture component and I've, I've listened to your podcast, you know, a number of times, and I've heard a lot of people get on here and talk about culture. And a lot of those coaches. Those educational leaders and professionals, you know, they they've hit the nail right on the head with culture, your culture, or the actions that creates your organization, whether it's a school community, whether it's a team, whether it's a club, whatever your actions are, that is your culture. You know, as much as I think we'd like to say our culture. is What's on the banner. We need to understand that the actions of the adults, the actions of the kids who are in the building or the members of your team, that, that really is your culture. A number of years ago, the greatest teacher I've ever encountered, uh, was a French teacher. And I realized that this teacher was the greatest teacher I've ever encountered when I had to substitute teach her class. Talk about a fish out of water, you know, a lifelong geography teacher get through getting thrown into a, you know, an AP French class and the sub plan literally said, tell the kids there's a quiz tomorrow. And that was it. That was the whole sub plan. There was nothing else on the sub plan. So standing in front of the French four kids and I'm like, okay, she said that there was a quiz. The class sprung to action. It was unbelievable. Kids started pulling out flashcards from a, a big thing of a tub of flashcards. They pulled out these manipulatives that they were using. They pulled out these mini whiteboards and markers, and they suddenly like broke into these small groups. She left me one sentence of a sub plan like that, but the kids understood. And I, I realized at that 0.1, the culture of the room that I was teaching wasn't that it wasn't very good. Um, but also that this teacher had created a culture within the room where the kids understood the actions that they needed to take. When she wasn't actually there. And I think it speaks volumes for the culture of a classroom, the culture of the school, the culture of a team. When, when the kids feet aren't held to the fire, that their actions are still moving towards whatever the goal is of the school or, or the team. And I think. As adults we really need to, to help students to help athletes understand what the actions are within the culture of your organization or your team, or your club, your school. And it's not easy because kids change over time. I think it's important for adults to help kids define what these actions are. Okay. So what, what are the actions of your team? Well, if the action of your team is that everybody cleans up practice. Well, the adults need to be leading those actions. The adults need to help everyone understand what those actions are. If the action of your team is service is service. Let's say it's a service leadership or something like that. Okay. Put those kids in the position of service and then model what that service looks like. Okay. So if you're going to go pack food somewhere, the adults should be right there with the kids pack in the food. If it's going to be a toy drive, the adult should be right there doing the toy drive. Um, I had an opportunity in high school, we did this service project where we, it was the, the city, the city was tearing up these streets and they needed teams of kids. Basically stack bricks, package the bricks, and then they were going to be hauled off on a pallet somewhere. But like this work needed to be done. And guess what? Every one of my coaches was right there with us picking up bricks. Every one of the teachers that was helping out with it was right there. And I think understanding those actions and seeing what it looks like seeing the model of it, I think is really important for young people because they understand that. They're not just going to tell me what to do. They're going to show me what to do. And I think that that's a big deal. Um, what you said about yet? I am a believer in the power of yet and I have to be, I'm a lower level coach. So for, for those who don't really know me, like I've coached 14 years of, of lower level football. And no one's there yet. The whole team isn't there yet. You don't have any finished products in front of you, and you need to understand that, you know what? The kid is a little bit too skinny and a little bit too slow might be there in three years. And I think you and I have had those conversations a hundred times and I've said like, listen, this, this kid's not ready right now. And he's not going to be ready next year. But in the longterm, this kid might be a very, very valuable member of this team three years from now. And they're going to have themselves a whale of a senior year, but there's going to be a lot of development along the way. And you know what, just because they're not ready right now. Doesn't mean they won't be. In the future and you know what? I, I teach AP human geography to kids who it's their first AP class. They walk in the room, not ready yet. Like they're not there yet. And I've got right around 165 days to get them ready for this very, very important test, which has a very lasting impact into their adult lives. So you know what to understand that they're not quite ready yet, but we'll be ready in the future. And they're going to participate in the culture of things to get them ready is, is a big.

Luke:

So that's a great definition of culture. I love the fact you talk about being a verb and the action and I've heard so many coaches talking about their programs, and I say, we have a culture of winning. That's not true. There's no such thing as that. Winning may be a a result of your culture, that that part I'll go with, but there is no such thing as winning as our culture, but I, I just think again, it's an often misunderstood word and then this idea of yet. We could spend multiple episodes just talking about yet. And it's really difficult in today's society because everything has to be instantaneous and people have no grit. People have no perseverance. Everybody wants it to happen right now. And it could be the kid themselves. I want an a in this class, well, it's going to, it's going to take some work, right? I want to be. You know, I want to be a starter on the team. Again, it's gonna, it's going to take some work and you have to keep forging ahead. And it's like, I sit with my own kids, Kelly and I, I'm not slamming my own children, but sometimes when things don't come easily, they want to just throw up their hands and say, well, I'm not good at this. And I don't know if that has always existed. I have no idea. This is just my first time parenting and seeing through the lens of a parent. And it's disturbing to me because. I actually lose my cool unfortunately. I'm like, man, you're just going to give up? That's the process. That's the most important piece. If you get there, you don't get, there really doesn't matter. It's the fact that you're willing to commit yourself to that process, but it just seems like kids don't want to hear that word yet. They want to know, is it going to happen right now? And we don't always have that ability to give it to them right now. And that that's a real.

Kelly:

I agree, but I think there's something that we do have the ability to give them. And I think it's to celebrate those tiny victories along the way. For a kid who's been failing the test in my class and in an AP class, those tests are, I mean, they're there a mountain to climb. There are a handful of naturally gifted hard-working kids who are going to do well. And there's some. That aren't there yet. And you know what that kid might have to show up early, stay late, put in the extra time and they finally get themselves a C plus, you need to celebrate that with them. You need to go up to them at the end of the class, give them, give them a fist pound. You need to give them a high five. You need to tell them that you're proud of them. You've seen this happen at your practices because you've done this long enough. You've seen that kid who has struggled with something suddenly have a rep, have a series where it clicks and it starting to, you know, Is it division one level? No, it's not. It's a good high school play and it's okay to go celebrate those with those kids and say, Hey, you know what? I saw, you hit your, hit your drop. The day I saw those hips turn and you got in your technique and you got the right arm around and. Awesome. That means so much to that kid, walking back to the locker room, walking over to their parent's car or driving themselves home, they will live on those words. And you know what, knowing that they're going to get that kind of praise and support for the things that they do well, it goes so far with kids. And I'm not going to sit here and tell everybody that I'm the, you know, I'm the positive coach every minute of the day. I will loudly motivate you in the right direction if I need to. And yes, your mistakes do get called out at my practices during film and games as well. However, when you see that kid that is having those little victories along the way, Recognize them celebrate them. Okay. Make them the captain of the week or whatever it happens to be and that goes a long way. And you know what, I've prided myself over the years on having excellent football, retention numbers. Do you know, to the tune of 90 and 95% returners every year. Part of it is sinking those hooks into those kids with that praise. So they go on to the next year that they continue with the sport and the kids understand like. Did I catch the slant and house? How's it on, on the team? No, but I got my foot work in, I got my hands up. I caught the ball, had good ball security and you know what? It was a successful play and they're going to keep coming back for it time and time and time again. They're going to keep coming back for it because they feel as though they're getting supported by those adults. And I think that we all have an obligation to do those kinds of things for kids.

Luke:

Let's go back to something you said about 10 minutes. And that was that player on your team that you knew he was having a bad day. And he was surprised that you recognize that. And your response was, is because I pay attention. I think one of the challenges in the profession of education and coaching is paying attention to everyone because there's so many kids throughout your day that you're interacting with. So what are some strategies you could suggest to our listeners to. Help them in their want to pay attention to every individual that they are in front of.

Kelly:

So one of the things I've, and this has been hard for me, for those, those who know me, in my classroom and in my practices, I am a little bit of a controlling person in that I like to. Plan everything out and execute it. And I try to hold everybody accountable for executing, whatever plan it happens to be. But to hand over some responsibility, um, I've started handing over, not play calling responsibilities, but card calling during my practice and I'll allow my assistant coach. You communicate plays with my quarterback. I'm going to do some quality control during this next segment of offense or, you know, the seven on seven or whatever happens to be and get a chance to walk out with the receivers and take a look at what they're doing and watch the technique to get in, to get into the huddle a little bit and listen to what the line men are saying and how they're calling it and things like that. I think that goes a long way. And then, you know what. When a kid is having a bad practice, you don't. Sometimes you got to sub them out and put in the number two kid and let the number two kid take some reps, put your arm around the kid, watch a couple of reps, evaluate with them. There's a time to get on kids. There really is, but there's also a time to understand, that athletes having a bad day and normally regular practice. They're 10 out of 10. They're doing great. But this practice, there are two out of 10 and they need to get pulled for a minute and they need. You know, told that they're getting supported by the people around them. You know, I have a great relationship with backup quarterbacks. I think backup quarterbacks is I think it's one of the most fun positions because the pressure isn't necessarily on you, every single rep and I've had a number of backup quarterbacks where I get to sit, you know, they've got their arm band on during practice. I've got the. Or my assistants got the play card, and they're calling plays and we just get to chat back and forth and, evaluate the play together and kind of find out what they're thinking. And that goes so far when that kid gets thrust into the game on a, on a moment's notice because that's kind of how backup quarterbacks live. It's it's, you know, one play and suddenly you're in and you are the guy who's got to complete the drive for them to already have that rapport with the play call or with the head coach. That just boosts their confidence. They feel comfortable going in and out of the huddle because they've got this great relationship with you. And I think that matters. I think it makes that, and, and when we talk about the culture and the action of your team, okay, the culture is the actions that you're taking, right. I'm taking that action to build the relationship, to create a player that's a little bit more comfortable. And I think that matters for the success of your team and not necessarily on the scoreboard, but the overall success.

Luke:

I'm going to ask you a really tough question. Just popped in my head. As you're talking about relationships

Kelly:

never done that to me before. You've never asked me a hard.

Luke:

What do you do if the report is just not there, the relationship has just not growing. Maybe the kid, just for whatever reason, doesn't like you, there's a personality conflict. What do you do? Cause you still have to be this kid's teacher and, and or coach.

Kelly:

Yeah. So I I've run into this a handful of times, you just, you have a personality conflict with the kids. Some kids will come in and here's the deal. You didn't have the best relationship with their older sibling either. And they're coming in and they've already got kind of a predetermined notion of who you are as a coach and you know what it's going to be like and those kinds of things. And I think it's important to accept that you may not be the adult for that kid. And that's okay. Like I'd like to think that every kid that walks out of my classroom thinks that my class is the greatest kid. Well, here's the deal. If you're, if you're a math science, The geography teacher may not be your jam and that's okay. And you know what, that kid might be leaving my practice and you know what the football coach, it's not really my jam. I don't love the way that he does it. You know, he's out there to be with his friends and, you know, have a little bit of fun, but doesn't necessarily click with you. But it's important to understand that. The perspective, what, what makes these guys tick. They might have a great relationship with their basketball coach or their baseball coach understand that there might be a position coach on the field that they click with a little bit better than you. And it's okay for those other coaches to kind of take the reins on those relationships. You know what you don't have to be the star of every kid's life in order to make an impact on him. I think it's important for us to hand it over to other adults. Also, it's important to be able to hand over to resources you trust. I've got a good relationship with the head basketball coach to be able to look at that kid and say, I really think you should do basketball. There's a great coach there and it might be something you really, really click with. I'm lucky to have the head freshman baseball coach on my coaching staff. I know that I've got some kids out there. They are baseball first and that's okay. And they may not love like coach Henkel a football coach, but they might really enjoy the head baseball coach and that's somebody they click with and that's okay. And it's okay to feel comfortable that you are not necessarily the number one adult for that kid.

Luke:

Well sad. a lot of that just comes from inner confidence as a person, which is sometimes easier said than done, especially because one thing we said prior to hitting record is we both agree that people get into teaching. 'cause they want to be that difference maker and you want to save the world and you want to be the difference maker in every single kid you come in contact with. But the harsh reality that guys like you and I now have just come to terms with 20 years in. It's just not going to happen that way. You're not going to be that person for every kid that you come in contact with, but you still do have an obligation, as you said to. Contact that kid with the person that will be that person in their life. So very well said. I want to switch, go. Sorry. Go ahead.

Kelly:

I know, I think it's hard because like, sometimes you, you recognize mid season, like this doesn't click. That doesn't mean you ignore it. It doesn't mean that they should walk off the field every day and not get a, compliment from you and they should get ignored as the captain of the week or whatever, just because you don't have that connection with the kid. It's okay. That you don't have that connection with every single kid. You've been the head of the program, right. You've had 160, some odd football, but you're not going to connect with 160 out of 160 kids. And that's okay. However, that doesn't mean that those kids shouldn't get some of these. Yeah attention. They shouldn't get complimented for their work in the weight room. They shouldn't bit praised a little bit or recognized for the good things that they do because a lot of them are doing great stuff outside of your football program and that's okay. You gotta be comfortable with that.

Luke:

Agreed. And we're going to shift gears. Now, one thing that we both also share in common is the unique perspective of being a coach, but also being a parent of young athletes. And that is a really interesting dynamic. And I would argue that one of the best coaching clinics you ever can go to is go be a parent of a young athlete and you get to see a whole different perspective of the athletic experience. So what have you learned yourself, being a parent and looking through that lens, how has that made you a better coach?

Kelly:

For a number of years, I was a head coach, but I wasn't, I wasn't a parent. When my first son was born, it, you know, really, really kind of changed my perspective. I actually stepped back from being a two sport coach just to a one sport coach because it's, you know, being in season practically nine out of 12 months of the year is pretty difficult. But I had an opportunity to kind of like evaluate. How I interact with every athlete and whether or not that was an interaction that I would want an adult to have with my own son someday. And, and ultimately, you know, the people listening at home, can't see it. I'm not exactly the most genetically gifted athlete over here. You know, I'm the, I'm the five, nothing, a hundred nothing guy that tried really hard and I had great foot work, but that was about it. But I might have a, have an athlete on my hands who. Very much. It's like me as an athlete and that's okay. I want them to have a positive experience. I want them to come home and feel good about the thing that they enjoy the most. And, I've kind of had it both ways and you know, you you've had this experience. Well, you walk off the sideline and you go right to. Your child's sideline. And now you're, you've gone from taking your coach's hat off to putting on your dad had, and now you're sitting in the lawn chair watching practice, finish up and kind of evaluating well. Okay. Is that, is that adult building the relationship with my kid and the way that I try to build a relationship with my own athletes? And if, and if they're not, I wonder what my son thinks of that when they're not right. And then are my players also thinking about that if I'm not building the best relationship. I I've had an opportunity to come across some really, really good youth coaches and we've been pretty, pretty blessed so far. Okay. That the number of, youth coaches who've pulled my son aside and, Hey, listen, I, I understand you struck out, but you swung the bat and that's what we needed you to do. You swung the bat and, and you know what, that's, that's a big improvement from earlier in the season that goes such a long way, even with a seven year old playing baseball for the first time. And I think it's important that they feel comfortable going into those practices and going into those games. Yeah. The adult really, truly cares about the development of the athlete, but most importantly, whether or not that kid's having a good experience and as my son has started to play football. A number of the coaches have kind of figured out that I coach high school sports for a living. So they'll start kind of picking my brain about X's and O's, and I'll kind of stop them and say, you know, we can X know with this guys, like all night, if you really want to but most importantly, I really think that every kid needs to walk out of here with a positive experience every day and every kid, and this is just my own personal belief for six and seven year old football. Every kid needs to touch the ball every day, find a way to make it happen. Because here's the deal. Kids are quitting sports because they don't get to have those positive experiences. And unfortunately, you know, Going to some of these games and going to practices and watching other teams and things. Not every kid is touching the ball. I mean, there's seven years old. You don't know what they're going to look like when they're older, you don't know how they're going to develop necessarily. Let them touch the ball, let them have some fun. And, and I think that's most important. The reaction I get sometimes from youth coaches, like. Well, we're trying to put the ball in the hand of our best athlete, but Y w w what are you doing? Like ultimately, you're, you're trying to win a game, right? Well, what if the experience and the positive atmosphere of the team, what if that was the emphasis and winning the games was just a by-product. Right. And, and you know, what, if you don't win the game, but the kids saw as a great expense. That's fine. Like who, who cares? Right. It's seven-year-old football. So it doesn't, it doesn't really have any, any, uh, ground shaking consequences. If you don't win the game.

Luke:

And that that's a hard concept for coaches throughout their mind around. Not because they're not good people, but because we're competitive in nature that's who we are and you want to win the game. So completely agree with your philosophy. The implementation and to staying in that lane is sometimes the difficult part. And when you talked about really the objective is, is each and every day, the kid should have a positive experience and be glad that he or she is playing. I completely agree with you on that as well. And there's a lot of slamming of kids today and, oh, well, they're lazy and they don't want to play games and they just want to sit on their phones all day and they don't want to play sports. Well, I would argue in defense of these. Are you providing an experience worthwhile enough for them to want to put their phones down? Because phones are really fun and we're guilty of it as adults too. I mean, anywhere I go, I see adults have their face buried in their phone, just as much as kids do, but yet we love to critique those teenagers in particular, they never put their phones down. Neither do we. That's the reality. When do we put our phones down? When something of value comes across our peripheral, and then we go, okay, now this has my attention. So that's the challenge to all the coaches out there create a product that is worthwhile to these kids. They'll put their phones down. I absolutely guarantee that.

Kelly:

It's hard. It's really, really hard. I, I, I got kinda, kinda thrown into coaching, a little indoor flag football this winter, and, you know, we've got like nine or 10 kids in the team or whatever. And sometimes we do really well and sometimes we don't do really well to bring everybody in for the huddle at the end of the game, going. Did everybody have fun today? Yes. Did everyone touch the ball and get to run with it? Yes. Did everyone try to pull a flag? Yes, we did. Okay, cool. I'm going to see you guys next week. Okay. You work hard during the week and we'll have a lot more fun next week, that conversation. They don't need to be told the X's and O's, they don't need to be told to try harder. There they're seven. They are ready to go get a snack. They're ready to go home and do whatever they do at their house. It's okay to just ask the fun question and move on. And you, and I know this because we've done this a long time. There's, there's a lot of us who want to coach the way that we were coached. Okay. Well, here's the deal. I'm not the same athlete as these kids are today. It's a very, very different kind of kind of kid. And you're absolutely right with things like phone and the video games, like, but here's the. It's very easy to get praise and to have fun on your phone or on a video game, it's really, really easy to do that. Well, they're going to go gravitate towards those things where they kind of get what they want out of it. And you know, what, if we create more of those experiences away from those things, yeah. It's going to be that much better for your team or for your school community or whatever it happens to be.

Luke:

And to your point of, we coached the way we were coached a previous episode. I had Dr. Tim who's a professor of education at Florida state. And if you haven't listened to that episode, don't tell me that. Cause I'll be disappointed in you definitely go back and listen to that one because that's what they're doing there is trying to dispel this notion of coach the way that your coach, because it doesn't exist anymore. And I would go a step further, Kelly, not to get on my soap box and say, that's the problem with education. It's so slow to evolve and think about the world we live in today. Think about how different 2021 is compared to 2018. And just that short amount of time. Now think about the evolution of the classroom. It can not keep up with the changing world. And yet we kind of throw our hands up and be like, man, these kids today, Well, again, it's our job to see the world through their eyes. If we're truly a leader, it's our job to see the world through their eyes, rather than the force them to see it through our eyes. That's not fair to them.

Kelly:

No, that's no, it's a, it's a good soap box to be on coach. Like it really is. And I, touched on it earlier. I mentioned that I think that generations of kids change about every five years, you know, I'm, I'm in year 15 of teaching right now. The kids that I taught 15 years ago are in their early thirties. You know what I mean? Like they are grown people who are married and having their own children and having their own professional successes and things like that. And the teenagers today are nothing like those kids 15 years ago. And it's important to recognize those changes in that demographic that you're interacting with every day. And the kind of the adapt or die philosophy that, you know, you, you, you go to coaching clinics, you see all sorts of that stuff. Right. You know, everyone talks about adapting or dying and you know, oh, you gotta go to, you gotta go to pistol now, or you gotta go to gun or you gotta do this, or you gotta, you gotta be RPOs now. Right. But then the same guys at their practice will be complaining about how well. The kids these days or whatever, and it's like, well, you've been changing your X's and O's like, why aren't you changing your approach to the kids to meet where the kids are at? Like we're supposed to as leaders go meet those kids where they're at. Well, why can't we do that? Why can't we are, are you uncomfortable as an adult going out there and meeting those kids? And I think that, really matters to kids that an adult will go meet them where they're at. Right now this whole tick-tock. Right. Like the kids are that, that's what they do. They love it. Okay. And if I'm in the middle of a lesson and I drop a little tick tock quote, if I slip one in there in the middle of the lesson, you should see the eyes light up across my room. Cause they understand, they know that I've, I've gone out of my way to kind of understand the culture of Tik TOK and meet them a little bit. And it. A long way with those kids. And then not. Then the question is, why are you on Tik TOK? Are you, are you making TikToks out there? It's like, you know, I've, I've not ventured into that realm yet. But you know it to understand it, it means a lot for those kids and to go meet them where they're at.

Luke:

Well, if you do get into that realm, please let me know. Cause I would love to watch you and the action and the tic-tac world, but, we're flying through this episode and we're about out of time, but I want to wrap it up with this one, a call to action. And it's going to come from you. I want you to give. The call to action to all the teachers and coaches out there who are listening. I want to give that call to action, to all the leaders of people in the corporate world, out there, listening to how they should move forward.

Kelly:

So it's absolutely paramount that we start evaluating the culture, the actions that we are creating within our organization, whether it be in your classroom, your school community, whether it be in your club, your team, your office, whatever. We, we need to go really evaluate what our actions are and what we want those actions to be in the future. And really if the culture is so completely. You know, centric around you as the individual and being there to drive the culture. Okay. Did you really create culture? Like, is that, is that what really took place? And I'm going to kind of revert back to what I said about the French teacher that I, that I know, um, in greatly respect this person created such a culture within that classroom, that the person didn't actually need to be there for the culture run. That's how, you know, you've created this great culture. And I think it's important for us to realize how individual kids can connect to that culture and start to emulate those actions that we see because ultimately, and you've had this, you know, you know it, and then the people listening here have coach long enough or been a leader long enough, understand this, you know what, they'll nod and smile at you. And then you'll walk out of the room and that our actions don't necessarily reflect the culture. Right. So if you're really implementing the culture in the way that we can implement it. Their actions should start to emulate what the cultural philosophy is in your organization. And I think it's so important for adults today to connect those kids to that culture because they need something they want, they want to do these things and if we don't help them connect, you know what? They're going to go out there and try to connect to whatever culture, whether it be good or bad that they can. And for a lot of kids, it may not be the culture that we want them to connect to ultimately.

Luke:

Awesome response. And let's end on that note. Thank you so much for being on and thank you for your great work with kids. I really truly appreciate that. I'm not saying that tongue in cheek, you are the type of person we need in front of kids. So thank you for what you do, because you probably don't hear it enough. I really value our friendship. I love the conversations that we have on this top because we both share the same passions, which is helping people become the best people they can. be in life, which is a challenge. And we really hope that, paying it forward. Our kids have those exact types of educators and coaches in their life. So thank you so much for being on it really.

Kelly:

Well, Luke, thank you very much. If there's anyone out there that wants to connect with me or, have any, deeper discussions, I'm on Twitter @CoachHenkel. I'm usually really good about replies and follows and DMD. Um, I want to get the, get the hood up a little bit and kind of see what it's like on my team and in my classroom, you can follow me on Instagram @MrHenkelclassroom. And get an idea of kind of what some of this action looks like, inside of my classroom on a, day to day or week to week.

Luke:

Thanks for sharing that information and to our listeners, I'll be sure to include all of Coach Henkel's social media handles in the show notes as well. So, thanks for listening and thanks again, coach for being on. I appreciate it.

Kelly:

Thank you.

Kelly Henkel Profile Photo

Kelly Henkel

Teacher/Assistant Football Coach

I am in my 15th year of public-school education and 14th year of coaching lower level high school athletics. I am currently a teacher at Lake Zurich High School in Lake Zurich, IL where I teach sophomore level AP Human Geography and Human Geography. I just finished my 5th year serving as head freshman football coach for the LZHS football team. I have won multiple conference championships in the Southwest Prairie and Northern Suburban Conferences. I currently have a former player at every level of football including the NFL, semi-professional, NCAA Division I, FCS, Division II, Division III, NAIA. I also, proudly, have former students and athletes serving in multiple branches of our military. Most importantly, I have a large number of former students and athletes who have gone on to become excellent husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, professionals, and community leaders.

Philosophy:
Throughout my teaching and coaching career, I have placed an emphasis on building relationships with students and the community in order to recruit and retain students athletically and in the classroom. I firmly believe that the role of a teacher and coach should be to help their students and athletes become the best versions of themselves in the future. We do that by creating an inclusive environment in our classrooms and on our teams that future on the successes of individuals, while teaching the value and importance of being a great teammate.