eLuma is committed to impacting lives with the help of each and every individual we work with. We want to make sure that you have the chance to get to know these amazing people through our Leaders in Education series. In this profile, we feature Mountain View High School teacher and basketball coach Al Groves.
Al Groves is a leader in education for creating a winning streak by redefining student success. Growing up in a Native American home in the heart of Utah Valley, gave Al a unique view of how to be successful and make a difference. While his mother, the matriarch, managed the house on the weekdays, his father taught on the reservation, setting an example that emphasized focusing on actions over words.
Al believes that creating a winning streak for a student means giving them the skills they need to be successful. During his college years studying athletic training, Al had the opportunity to coach during a youth basketball camp, where he came across a young player who was there not because he loved basketball, but because his parents signed him up to keep him busy. Al took the time to take him aside, work with him on specific moves and really focus on learning the plays. In the final tournament, the boy shocked, even himself, when he used the new play to win the game. After the camp, Al changed his degree from athletic training to education.
“Education is an opportunity to expand kids and not just teach them,” -Al Groves
His first year coaching at a high school level was with a sophomore girls’ basketball team, and the team was quite inexperienced when he joined.
After losing game after game, 14 games in total that season, Al shifted the team’s measurement of success by celebrating the athletes’ basic skills and not the scoreboard. At the end of the season, their basic skills improved, and they won four games in a row. In the last game of the season, one player did a basic charge, and the team won the game by one point.
Creating a winning streak doesn’t mean taking home state titles and perfect grades. Al believes we define success. When a student made an abrupt change and started missing class, Al caught her in the hall and told her not to worry about her grade. He told her she would be successful if she came to class and tried the assignments. The student started to attend class and completed the semester. Having someone in her corner who believed she deserved success made all the difference.
One year, while preparing for season finals, the basketball team’s best athletes got injured. Al and the other coaches poured over the team roster, hoping to find a player who could match the injured athlete’s skill. After some thought, they chose a player whose leadership and athleticism would unify the team. That season they made it to the quarter-finals. The freshly appointed starter earned a scholarship, a leadership scholarship, not an athletic scholarship.
“If you measure success as winning the state championship, only 12 students can be successful. Measure success as something all students can achieve.” -Al Groves
Coach Al Groves rebuilt the boys’ basketball team by redefining success; when he started coaching, the team had one remarkable player who shot every time he wanted. That season they narrowed the student’s definition of success from making the most shots to only shooting good shots (defining a good shot from a bad shot). When the student athlete’s definition of success changed from shooting whatever to only shooting good shots, the scoreboard naturally moved up. His average points per game went from 13 points a game to 25 points a game., He scored 40 points in two games, and he scored 38 points in the final.
Al Groves thinks students can be successful in the classroom, on the court, and in the arts. He started collaborating with Turtle Island Art Collective to empower, showcase, and inspire indigenous youth with art. The collective teaches traditional skills, celebrates tribal culture, and connects with role models.
“If we want kids to add to our community, we need to welcome them to the community,” -Al Groves
Al Groves is a leader in education for challenging the definition of success and giving students winning streaks.
About the Author
Joy Marie Curtis, eLuma CX Operations Coordinator, Master in Education with an emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, B.S. Early Childhood Education with a minor in International Relationships, experience teaching kindergarten on the Navajo Nation reservation and in rural Utah at a title I school.