Local teacher helps Minnesota Vikings with online coaching

February 24, 2021 1:26 pm

By Nick LaBelle

Of The Spirit

It has not been easy for many businesses and organizations to adapt to doing a bulk of the work online. This new normal has even affected the entertainment that we enjoy, including the NFL which is set to kick off its season soon. By a stroke of fate, Whitney Bargerstock, a  local cyber teacher who teaches for Agora, had a chance to meet with the offensive line coaches for the Minnesota Vikings to teach them how best to use technology to help get players up to speed before heading back out onto the gridiron.

Before she moved to teaching online, Bargerstock spent time teaching in Clearfield. While she was there, she made many relationships with fellow teachers who knew of her tech-savvy nature. As fate would have it, the son of one of her former coworkers, Andrew Janocko, is an assistant coach of the Minnesota Vikings and saw that the team could use some help with trying to coach up players while they are scattered across the country. Janocko reached out to Bargerstock and asked her if she would be willing to teach him a few pointers on how best to keep the players engaged. As Bargerstock is a cyber coach with Agora and this sort of thing is what she typically does for her job, she accepted the offer and got to work preparing to teach.

Bargerstock said that she didn’t have much sports knowledge prior to providing the lesson, meaning she had to do some serious internet research before she could even begin to plan for what pieces of technology would best help the team. She went as far as to find game footage to try and get a feel for the sport of football. Bargerstock was also given access to some of the tools that NFL teams have access to so she could see how they could be used to increase engagement and activity.

Eventually, the day of the teaching session came, and Bargerstock found herself not just giving a lesson to just Janocko but to the entire offensive line coaching staff of the Vikings. While this did make her nervous, she delivered a lesson about how to best engage with players when they aren’t in the same room. “I had cold sweats the whole time –  talking to these big famous coaches on camera – but it was really cool. Andrew checked in and they thanked me again the next day too,” Bargerstock said.

The bulk of her lesson focused on some of the tools provided by Google for online collaboration, most notably things like Google Docs and Google Sheets. She said that the ability to use a blank Google Doc as a collaborative canvas for everyone to work on at the same time and share information was one of the most important pieces of technology she showed off. “Once they realized they could use a blank Google doc that they all could write on, that was the gateway,” Bargerstock said. “The coaches just wanted to find ways to engage them, get them interacting and not just listen to us for 90-minute blocks of time.”

Another key point of the lesson was to make sure that the technology being used was as simple for both the coaches and players to use as possible. Some people are not as familiar with technology, so Bargerstock aimed to show the coaches resources that are simple to use and work seamlessly. Additionally, the programs used had to be able to keep the attention of players who are all attending the meeting virtually, necessitating more simple and elegant programs.

While her presentation was given in the midst of a global pandemic that has forced online communication to become the norm, she said that many of the things she discussed could be used after the pandemic and in more than just an NFL locker room. One of the things that Bargerstock has most tried to emphasize in her teaching about how to use technology, is the ways in which using technology in addition to in-person classroom instruction can increase efficiency and save time. She said that just doing things like having students fill out a form made on Google to collect information before class even begins can save plenty of time and help gather information quickly. Likewise, a Google Doc can take the place of a handout as a way to streamline the process and cover more material in less class time.

Despite coaching the coaches, Bargerstock said that she doesn’t think she doesn’t have much of a future in coaching in the NFL and is happy with her position as a cyber coach. But no matter her future plans, she will always have the memory of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.