Calling time-out.

Sport Gestein flickr photo by WarrenMillerEnt shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

“Do we want to measure skill as precisely as possible, or do we just want to feel alive?”

The question above comes from one of my all time favorite Youtube channels, Vox. A recent video investigates the relationship of luck and skills as they apply to sports analysis.  In this post, I’d like to extend their text as an analogy to explore at your school, as your academic year comes to a ‘time out.’

In part, the idea is to help us think about what Seth Godin refers to as ’emotional labor,’ in this post here. There isn’t a school on the planet who couldn’t do with Godin’s advice to invest in the emotional work of engaging with one another in a productive (and compassionate) way.  The emotional highs and lows of any sport, the disipline, and dedication of training, the camaraderie and spirit of fans, the skill, luck and evolution of talent describe not only that next playoff game–but also work as descriptors of an academic year too.

Before we jump into those questions, please take the seven minutes to watch the following:

The following questions could be used with staff, students, or just as a provocation for personal reflection:

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the questions, suggest a better analogy, or let me know when and where you could see those questions being used to spark conversation in the comment section below.


Featured Image By Flickr

Jimmys Daskalakis

11 Replies to “Calling time-out.”

  1. Ciao Tricia,
    Okay, first, I’ve never even considered the idea of luck vs. skill in sports to this extent! Interesting research this guy has done! I’d be curious to see what a hockey player thinks of this analysis! While watching, I was thinking about how what was left of your post would tie back into education. I like the set of prompts you’ve developed to facilitate discussion, especially the one asking to evaluate the school’s success being attributed to luck or skill. I currently work at a school that has a wall celebrating the 7s earned on IB exams. I suspect that the decision to do this was made because they feel this demonstrates our success. But what of that can be attributed to luck or skill? There’s probably not one clear answer to that question. However, I think this is an interesting jumping off point for discussions for those wishing to pursue change in their classrooms and schools!

  2. Hi Tricia,
    What a great video. I loved it. It really resonated with me because my Football team Leicester City defied the odds and won the Premier League last year. Amazingly they were 5000-1 shots to win the league. Was it luck or skill, probably a bit of both. The video also made me think of one of my favourite sports books Moneyball. Which is the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s using statistics and analytic data to create a competitive baseball team.
    I think your prompts can create opportunities for schools and teams to really think about what they are offering students. In particular your question about who gets to take the shots? Do we get enough shots? Do we get enough time to work on different shots? is a great analogy and something that schools/teams/teachers should consider at the beginning of the new school year. I know I certainly will.
    Thanks for making me think.

    1. Hi Joel, many thanks for your comment–I hadn’t thought of this being a start of year prompt (simply because I was writing it in June)–but you are right, many of the questions could work as a way to set intentions come August–thank you for that perspective!

  3. Hi Tricia,
    Thanks for your post! The video is very interesting. I’m staying with friends in Montreal and I’ll be making them watch it tonight! 🙂 I connected with the idea/prompt in your slide deck, “Where on the spectrum of luck and skill are you when it comes to attributing your success at school?” I think it’s a great question for teachers to consider when planning lessons. How many opportunities are they giving kids to practice, prepare, try their skills? How many opportunities are there for everyone to ‘play’ and demonstrate their skill? The whole idea of students or a class as a team moving toward success together is a nice analogy. I went back and read Seth Godin’s post again as well. It calls into question the notion some teachers have of ‘Well, I taught it so if they didn’t get it, that’s their problem. They’ll have to study harder for that test.” The teacher in the role as the coach of a team puts that idea to shame. No team would ever succeed if the coach simply said, “Well, I showed them how to do it, so it’s up to them now.” There is also recognition of the emotional side of coaching a team. It’s not just about fostering a skill set but also creating an environment for success. My son played for a soccer team where the players were individually skilful but the coach did nothing to pull them together and draw on each other’s strengths. They would fall into a blame game when things didn’t go their way. I pulled my son off the team and found a team where the coach really developed them as a team to work together and rely on each other.
    Thanks for your post, Tricia! I’ll be thinking about how to incorporate it into our initial school days with staff. Some good thinking on this sunny Canadian morning!

    1. Hi Kim,
      Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment. Your thoughts remind me of the discrepancy I’ve seen between athletes and students–how sports are often seen as a way for young adults to bond and learn leadership. Surely we could be making more room for that in our classes as well?

  4. Thanks Tricia for, as always, making me think differently. You are like that experienced player in the team who has great influence and inspiration to others, thinking of new approaches and ideas that build on previous experiences or skills. Not being a sportsperson myself I thought I would find the analogy difficult but I can see the link to teams so clearly through your questions. Yes, we can always succeed on our own but we are always better when working together, supporting and encouraging, inspiring and pushing to reach or potential or go beyond our comfort zone. But what if you are the new player, the inexperienced player or the one who just cannot play? How can we make sure they are included and feel valued? I hope you are having a fun and relaxing holiday, and I look forward to your next post!

    1. Nicki–you are such the flatterer! I appreciate it. Your comment also makes me wonder how we can entice new players to simply ‘love the game,’ and not have worries about results. Thanks so much for your comment!

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