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Inspire with Paul Chanan: building social-emotional and resiliency skills through physical education

Coach Paul Chanan has been coaching competitive team sports for 20 years. Formerly the head baseball coach of the Chicago Maccabi Delegation and Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, he now coaches baseball for Deerfield High School and the Deerfield Warriors travel baseball program, and basketball for RZJHS.

Q: What are some important life lessons young student-athletes learn playing competitive team sports that you infuse into your PE classes?

A: Beyond the expected benefits of physical education—building healthy habits and improving physical fitness, motor skills, and mental wellness—PE classes are fertile ground for developing lifelong social-emotional and resiliency skills. Through our various exercises and activities, we incorporate opportunities for all Schechter students to cultivate the skills the world of athletic coaching has to offer.

  1. Hard work pays off. Sports truly reward the hard workers. There are no short-cuts, and no faking it. Athletes can see the direct correlation between work put in and positive results.
  2. Teamwork and collaboration lead to success. The best teams are about “WE over ME.” A group of talented individuals can only go so far. Those who work together, love and respect each other, and are aligned and in sync, become a true force.
  3. Confidence is built as goals are achieved. Team sports are very goal-oriented. When athletes do what is required to reach a goal, there is a strong sense of accomplishment. As accomplishments rack up, confidence is built, and athletes start to believe that anything is possible.
  4. Growth is achieved through failure. While many young people understandably fear failure, rendering them unlikely to take risks, athletes are taught to accept, and in many cases, embrace failure. In sports, obstacles and challenges cannot be adapted, smoothed over, or removed, so athletes learn to tackle them head on. The resulting failures are understood to be simply short-term setbacks, which become the catalysts to long-term growth.
  5. Grit and resilience become a mindset and a way of life. Athletes don’t just become winners on the field and in the gym. The strategies which build strength and grit in sports can directly translate into the classroom, into the college years, and into the future. In a world which seems to be getting more competitive every day, those who learn at a young age to compete while the stakes are relatively low, will have a real leg up socially, emotionally, and practically as they age.

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