From the desk of Dr. Soumakian: What do Great Teams do at Halftime?

Dr. Soumakian.
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© Tiffany israel/OUHSD
Dr. Gabe Soumakian
In a typical game that has a built in halftime, the team trots off to the locker room while the coach is pulled away from a TV Analyst who prompts the coach by asking, “Coach, recapping the first half, what do you attribute your success to and what adjustments will your team make at halftime.” Although the TV Analyst may prompt other questions based on whether the team has performed well or not, the intent is to get into the coach’s head for reflective comments and what next steps and adjustments the team will make at halftime.
Great teams go into halftime with adjustments already made before the first half with “just in time intervention.” They don’t wait until halftime to make the adjustments. After every series of events, coaches from a higher elevation are able to see what others on the field can’t see, a global picture of how the entire team is performing, not just one individual player. This information is relayed to the coaches and players on the field and they begin to collaborate and actually talk to each other to share the information and make the adjustments, as needed, before the next series.
When they go in at halftime, the coaching staff huddles to review statistics (data) as to what is working and what is not working. They continue to collaborate and everyone, including players, provides input as to the adjustments that need to be made during the second half. They know their players’ strengths and weaknesses so well that they will place players in the right situation to ensure their team’s success. Coaches try to create mismatches to take advantage, but also know how to maximize and utilize their under skilled athletes by placing them in the right position to be successful.
In the locker room, they will initially review what worked well and get feedback from the players as to what the players believe will also work well for them. They focus, focus, focus on the execution of the plan. Players are coached up, motivated, and the expectation is to rise to the next level of performance because everyone is expected to be a contributing member of a winning team. Once they have the second half plan in place they communicate it with all the players. Everyone needs to be on board on the same page of the plan to make sure the entire team will execute the plan. Sometime you will hear a coach say, “leave nothing to chance, you make your own destiny” as a way to inspire and motivate the troops. How many times have you seen an underdog beat a better team because the team is motivated, has a great plan, executes the plan, do not blame each other when things go wrong, and work together to achieve a common goal. We see it every week. So don’t count out the Giant this Sunday!
The end of the first semester and the beginning of the second semester is our halftime in high school. Students have an opportunity for a fresh start especially the Freshmen students who finally figured out high school. As the TV Analysis, we need to ask the right questions, we need to look at first semester grades and benchmark assessment and determine what has worked and what has not with our students. If the kids are not learning, it is up to the adults to determine why and implement interventions now. In real life ALL players are in the game and no one sits on the sidelines. Everyone has to be a first string player and we cannot just pay attention to those students who perform well. Don’t expect players to transfer in from another district and don’t think about transferring the poor performers out, our team is set. No, we can’t press the reset button and start the first half over like our kids do in the video game, this is a real life and we need to coach our players up.
In the next two weeks, each site administrative team will review data and determine how well students are performing and identify EVERY student who is not performing to begin developing a plan with the site data teams. All the Directors will also follow a similar protocol to review the same data and identify areas where students are not meeting proficiency. After the initial analysis, together the site administrative team and District team will collaborate and support each site by helping them implement the intervention plan.
The CAHSEE test is coming up shortly and the CST will be here within 40 instructional days. We have limited time to implement the second half game plan and begin to execute it well. I am confident that each of you has already begun to make adjustments for the second semester. We need everyone to buy in, we need everyone to know the plan, and we need everyone to be part of a winning team. Simply put, we do not have an option; our kids’ lives are dependent on the adults knowing what to do when students are not performing on a daily basis not just on game day.
I appreciate everyone’s effort the first half (semester) as the District has implemented several initiatives such as Strategic School, Professional Learning Community conversations, transition to Data Director, just to name a few. Let’s continue to keep Students First and focus on how we continue to improve.
Have a great opening of the second semester.

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