Let me first say that my footy experience is limited. My parents weren’t keen on me to try yet another sport when I was younger so my initial involvement was just in physical education classes. When I was at university, I played a season or two for the Edith Cowan Hawks (where everyone was called Bob if you didn’t know their real names). I was fortunate enough to spend 3 years working with one of the development squads for WAFL club Peel Thunder and I’m in my second year of playing AFL Masters with the Mandurah Makos – with the exception of those who have spent the majority of their sporting life playing some other code, I’m probably one of the least experienced people at the club.
As someone who hasn’t played footy to the extent of those people around me, I often get annoyed with myself and the fact that my skills don’t always match my intent. The best thing about game day and training, however, is that the lads are very vocal in their praise. You see, even at the top level, that players sometimes berate their teammates for poor disposal (Matthew Richardson was prone to flipping the bird at his fellow Tigers) but I can’t think of a single time where one of my Makos teammates has had a go at someone else on our team. Instead, people are constantly praising each other for their efforts. This positive attitude certainly helps me overcome my angst and doubts – it’s heartwarming to know my effort is appreciated even when my skills let me down.
This is important in the classroom too. Not everyone is good at English. We have intelligent students come through who are brilliant at mathematical and scientific subjects but struggle with the writing based humanities courses. That said, we also have students who struggle to perform basic literacy skills. What I want my students to know is that, while effort is not on the marking key, it is something that I value. I don’t subscribe to drowning students in positivity, the world is a harsh place and they need to develop resilience, but I give praise where praise is due.
Footy, like all team sports, relies on people performing their role. Defenders talk about how their job is made easier through the assistance of the other defenders and will compliment the midfielders for putting pressure on the ball carrier. Forwards cash in on the good work of the people up the field. Coaches talk about the team approach and receive kudos from the media when they develop team structures that don’t rely on individual stars. Players that win medals and accolades often say that they would trade them in for team success. Regardless of what level you are playing, it takes the whole team working together to play consistently and win games. If any player switches off, the opposition can use it to their advantage.
I try to reflect this message with my ATAR students, recommending a two-heads-are-better-than-one approach. If all they write is the product of my brain or their brain then they are doing themselves a disservice. They should be sounding out their ideas with their peers, pillaging from the Internet and fossicking through good answers from previous exams. Their best essay should be built on the collective brains of anyone they can access. They should collaborate and cooperate throughout their education. There’s no point being top of the class if your class is terrible. Top students should build the abilities of their peers and, in doing so, will actually find that they become better too.
Hmmm… maybe I’ve taken that one a little far from its source material but the connection is still there.
At the end of training you come off the track sweaty and gross so there’s a decent line for the showers when you’re back in the change room. I drive 25mins to get to training and I’m not inclined to spend that long in the car afterwards if I haven’t showered and changed. Because we’re all adults and not pubescent tweens embarrassed at the changes to our body, no one showers in their jocks or skins. That’s not to say that we’re flaunting our naked bodies around, simply that it’s an environment where being exposed is not something to be ashamed of.
In the classroom, I don’t want that kind of exposure. However, I do want students to open up and feel comfortable sharing their work. I want them to feel safe despite the fact I’m asking them to put themselves in a vulnerable position, exposing their thoughts and ideas in an open forum. By making this an expectation of the environment, I naturalise this process.
Beyond that, footy informs my teaching through the fact that I go out there and give it 110%. I’m aware of the fact that you’re only as good as your last lesson and I’m just taking it one week at a time. That’s what I’m talking about!!!