Back in January John O’Sullivan wrote a post called “The Enemy of Excellence in Youth Sports” – and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. The number of quotes I want to share from his post would be borderline plagiarism, so please, PLEASE, go read the post. But the basic idea is this:
Youth sports have gotten so focused on the win, on creating the next college or professional superstar, that we’re ignoring the learning process, the practice, the ability to experience multiple positions and activities. The focus is on the win. He says, “It turns the focus of youth sports away from the priorities and needs of children, and towards the values of adults.” He goes on to list the results of focusing on success, or wins instead of learning, including coaching for short-term goals and gains, playing too many games and not practicing enough, and the inequity involved in the cost of the best programs and training.
So what does this have to do with education? Hopefully you see it already. If you don’t, read on.
Take out the word sports, and insert the word education. Take out the word win, and insert the word tests, or even A (as in the letter grade).
We cannot focus on the win, on the test, on the product, on the final grade – to the determent of the learning. Kids should be coming school to learn how to learn, not learn how to ____________ (memorize, pass a test, fill in a bubble sheet, get an A). We must focus on the process; the fundamentals of learning. Helping our students create a toolbox today will make them more successful later in life – they aren’t missing big chunks of the journey; the learning how to get there.
That’s not to say, of course, that we don’t want kids who are driven. But as O’Sullivan says, “players who play to win is one thing, and has nothing to do with coaches who only coach to win…” We live in a legislated culture that has teachers teaching to the test; coaching for the win. We must
coach teach for the long-term; the learning. Give the process its due.