Teachers are Winners: Super Bowl XLV Edition with Packers Offensive Line Coach James Campen

Because they are often competing for funding dollars in education, music and sports are often seen as being at odds with each other, but I take a different view on the subject. I’ve had the time of my life teaching my young son to play sports, and many of the lessons from both sports and music are transcendant and applicable beyond those experiences. The Green Bay Packers players who were coached by Vince Lombardi in the 60’s unequivocally state that they learned more lessons about life than about football from their iconic coach.

Coming back from Super Bowl XLV in Dallas and having the experience to be closer to the winning team than most fans, I came away with a few thoughts on the parallels between coaching and teaching. My brother-in-law is James Campen, the Offensive Line coach for the Green Bay Packers, and he reached the pinnacle of his profession this season after years of hard work as an NFL player and coach. He endured the long hours, the professional uncertainty, and the public scrutiny, and he came out on top. I love him and couldn’t be prouder of him, and sharing that experience with my family was one of the greatest memories of my life (and he gave his nephew – my 13 year-old son Michael, a pass to get on the field with his cousins to celebrate the Lombardi trophy presentation!).

In a radio interview a few days after the victory, he spoke of the joy of seeing the players that he had coached celebrate in victory:

“When the confetti comes down at the stadium and you get to watch the players you’ve coached and you see the elation on their face and the tears coming down their face, it hits you at that point to say: ‘You know what – We did something special here’…It’s a great feeling to coach players with that type of emotion and drive. They’re very deserving.”

The greatest coaches essentially consider themselves teachers. James coached high school football before jumping to the NFL, an experience that he considers an asset, because coaching at that level really hones your skills as a teacher.

If you’re a teacher and a music teacher specifically, I’m sure that you can relate to James’ emotions. It is the nature of Offensive Linemen in football and therefore the Offensive Line coach that the only time you’re recognized is when things are going poorly. When you’re doing your job well, the “skilled players” such as wide receivers, quarterbacks and running backs are getting all of the accolades.

Similarly, for every music performer who stands on stage and receives the adulation of an audience, there’s a teacher or several teachers who inspired them, motivated them, criticized them when necessary (a pat on the shoulder or kick in the pants as needed), helped them believe in themselves, pushed them to go further than they’d imagined they ever could, and stood in the wings cheering them on as they succeeded.

It is also likely that you rarely receive great accolades for your hard work. Your reward is the satisfaction that you have changed lives and helped others realize their full potential.

As I state in this forum repeatedly, your efforts impact the lives of your students in the band room and beyond whether their ultimate vocation is music or otherwise, as my music teachers have impacted me. 

Congratulations – you are champions! And so are the Packers!

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