On Sept. 24, 2013, Rick Brooks achieved an impressive milestone: The Johnston High School head volleyball coach celebrated his 500th win.
“What struck me, I guess, with the 500 wins was that it reminded me of all the great kids over the years,” Brooks says, some of whom have their own children now.
Volleyball was foreign to Brooks when he began coaching. It was at his first teaching job in Baxter, that he got his feet wet.
They needed an assistant volleyball coach and asked him if he was interested. Brooks was a four-sport letter winner in high school and played football at Wartburg College in Waverly. When it came to volleyball, he had only played some, and never taught it, he says.
He took on the challenge, reading, watching films, going to clinics and college matches and talking to coaches.
Being a coach was something he wanted to incorporate into his career because sports was part of his identity growing up. Brooks says it’s given him the opportunity to get to know students, as well as parents, on a deeper level. Coaching has also given him greater insight as to why students are doing something on the court or in the classroom.
Brooks, a math teacher, has been teaching for 22 years; 20 of those at Johnston High School.
There are several things that help get kids engaged in math, he says.
“You try to first of all communicate it in a way they understand — relate it to them,” Brooks says. Also, have fun, which includes laughing at your mistakes. Get to know students, learn what their anxieties are, and let them know you’re on the same team, he adds.
There are similarities between his work on the court and in the classroom. In both instances, Brooks says, you try to make things relatable to students and remember to have fun. Also, you encourage them to believe they can do something, even if they haven’t done it before.
The frustrations and joys are the same, he says. Sometimes, things can be going great in class or in practice, but won’t reflect as such on a test or at a match.
“And in both realms,” he says, “I wish I was better.”