Achieve Portal
athletics, coaching, middle school, sports

Coaching During a Pandemic

The challenges of teaching students during the pandemic go beyond the classroom. Coaching at Gulf Stream School has always been rewarding because we focus on teamwork and communication as well as on doing our best. Our sports program for Middle School students in grades 5-8, is not the traditional approach. There are no try-outs, so every student has an opportunity to play all four sports and compete against other schools. This philosophy has allowed the student who would otherwise never play, a chance to find their place in sports while also giving our more skilled students a place to shine.   

Sports have always been a big part of my life. Throughout middle school and high school, I always had to try out to make the team. Even though I always made the team and was successful, at 5’7” and a scrawny 130 pounds, I always had to battle bigger and stronger players, both at practice and games. I know how hard it is to find your place on the court or field.  This is why our program is a success. All our students, no matter their size or skill level can find their place. 


Changing it up

With COVID-19, we have had to restructure our program. We have had to find a balance between continuing to work on our sports skills while giving the students a different goal. This year we did not have the opportunity to play towards being in a league championship. Instead, we incorporated a physical fitness component. Being a workout nut, I realize the importance of getting our students in better shape. We wanted our students to understand the importance of being physically fit. This gave some students who were not as skilled in team sports an opportunity to find their place on the field through distance running or bodyweight exercises.

The change in structure also gave our students the opportunity to participate in a sport they normally would not get to play during a “normal” year. Early in the school year the girls and boys were able to play the “other” fall sport. The girls participated in flag football and the boys participated in volleyball. This was new to them, but they really enjoyed the change and challenge of trying sports they otherwise would not get to play. 

We created drills to work on their skills and set up games while maintaining our cohort protocol. As the year progressed, the other sports that both our boys and girls play every year, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, were next in line. To provide a break from traditional sports play, we enjoyed dodgeball, kickball, and capture the flag. 


Looking back while looking ahead

While we are excited to be working towards resuming our sports program in the fall, many of us gained a greater appreciation for the structure we have implemented for these many years while learning to tweak the process. I know both the students and coaches are excited to get back to playing intramural games.


By: Larry Handler (Technology Coordinator, Mathematics Teacher, Co-Director of Athletics)