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The rigors of balancing athletics and student teaching prepares ’Berg students well



The old saying goes “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” But student-athletes in the Muhlenberg College education program occasionally have to “do” and “teach” at the same time.

Many athletes are drawn to teaching as a career simply because some of the most influential people in their lives are teachers – whether it be those in the classroom or those on the playing field and courts after school.

“Something I realized in high school was that teaching and coaching go hand-in-hand,” says Mike Koth ’03, a co-captain on the Mule football team who hopes to become a history teacher and football coach. “Not just in the job, but in general principles and foundation. You can take things off the field and apply them in the classroom, like management skills and leadership skills.”

Koth began his student teaching in the Spring 2003 semester at Springhouse Middle School in the Parkland School District. Because Muhlenberg’s education program is so rigorous, and the student-teaching portion in particular is so time-consuming, athletes rarely do their student teaching while their sport is in season.

“It would be impossible,” states Koth flatly. “With all the practices, meetings, film sessions we have for football … it wouldn’t be possible.”

For athletes who play winter sports, however, the choice is not so simple. The winter season spans both semesters, with practice starting around the middle of the fall term and competition going through spring break. Unless they stay for an extra semester to do their student teaching, or give up their sport, winter athletes are forced to do the impossible.

“You can’t do it unless you’re passionate about both things,” said Meg Malatack ’03, a women’s basketball co-captain. She did her student teaching during the fall, splitting time between Trexler Middle School and Emmaus High School. “Since I love basketball and teaching so much I kind of fought my way through the day at school or at practice if I was tired.”

“There was no way that either side of me was going to put up with not doing one or the other,” says wrestler Greg Jacobs ’03, whose student teaching experience took place at South Mountain Middle School and Parkland High School in the fall 2002 semester.

Both athletes chose to do their student teaching in the fall because the heart of the athletic schedule is in the spring. The women’s basketball team, for example, played six of its 25 games during the fall, and the wrestling team had only four of its 17 scheduled competitions in the fall.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“It’s real demanding,” says Malatack, who taught English. “You wake up at 6, teach all day until about 2:30 or 3, then go to practice as soon as you get back, then plan your lessons all night, then go back and do it all again in the morning.

“I did real well at student teaching, so no one could say my grades suffered. I was probably less than chipper at practices some days, but I gave it my all. Coach [Ron Rohn] never had anything to say about it, so I think it worked out well on both ends.”

Even though she may not have been “chipper,” Malatack missed only one practice – and she says she was heartbroken about it.

Jacobs also fought his way through the harsh wrestling practices to do well as a student teacher in biology. “By the end of the week it was tough,” he notes. “Most people by senior year don’t have any classes on Friday, but I still had to get up to go to school. Then we had practice on Friday, and then at the beginning of the season we had Saturday morning practice at 8 or 9. My weekend started at 1 o’clock on Saturday.

“The teaching things had to come first, and I tried to balance it as best as I could.”

Jacobs was fortunate in that his cooperative teacher at Parkland understood his situation: He was also an assistant coach with the football team, which was making its run to the state title while Jacobs was there.

Both Malatack and Jacobs found their status as college athletes helped them as teachers.



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