Invaluable lessons learnt on the soccer field

"Soccer was not a matter of life and was much more important than that" - Bill Shankly

The great Liverpool coach, Bill Shankly, once famously said that “soccer was not a matter of life and death…it was much more important than that”. Mind you, he also said that a soccer team was like a piano, you need eight people to carry it and only three to play.

When the St Catherine’s Intermediate (Years 9 and 10) Soccer squad reached the Finals. They had finished top of their zone, and although they eventually succumbed to an excellent side, if accolades were to be handed out for sheer guts and determination, effort and desire, then the prize cabinets at 17 Heyington Place would be filled to the brim.

As I stood on the sidelines, co-coach with Mr Alex Borlenghi, I could not help but be reminded once again how learning is transferable, how if there is such a thing as defeat then it is only an attitude and how essential getting the very simple things correct is to ultimate success.

Thus, from coaching and watching the Soccer Intermediates, here is my top eight (in reverence to Shankly’s piano quip) transferable learning habits:

  1. Practice makes…better: It is not about being perfect. It is about getting better and improving. Better learning and teaching. In both soccer, and in schoolwork, effort will be rewarded.
  2. Focus on what you can control: Our team could only truly control their own effort, not the outcome. We were not focussed on the result; we were focussed on the process. Focussing on the present, getting that correct, resulted in reaching the Finals. Year 12 students in particular take notice!
  3. Let go of mistakes: During practice and during the game we made lots of mistakes. But, how did we react? We acknowledged them, we learnt from them and then we moved past them. It is the same with learning. If you are not making mistakes, you are not being challenged, therefore, accept them, learn from them and move on.
  4. Keep learning: Speaking of learning, we are constantly doing it – learning from both our successes and our mistakes. Every member of the squad recognised that even the very best players on the team are constantly learning and working to get better. Stella, for example, had a fantastic season and yet she was without fail one of the first on to the pitch during practice and one of the last off.
  5. Being positive moves us further: Mrs Merran O’Connor would have been proud. The emotional support that this squad exhibited was fantastic. Much like a car’s petrol tank, when our emotional support tanks are full, we can go a lot further. The emotional support each girl gave her teammates propelled us further, and without it, we would never have reached the Finals. In learning, we also need to support each other, encourage each other – when someone needs a smile, give them yours!
  6. Celebrate success: Success is both large and small. Jen saved a penalty, Mardi’s Mum brought her new ‘St Catherine’s blue’ soccer boots (complete with pink laces) for the Finals, Maddie didn’t get sent off, Flynn headed the ball and Mr Alex Borlenghi turned up to training…once…with fifteen minutes remaining…Nevertheless, we celebrated each occasion! We all know how to celebrate winning the big game, but we also learnt how important it is to celebrate the smaller goals we set for ourselves, in learning as well as in sport.
  7. Become a true team player: Teams move us all forward, a great team player is someone who contributes 100%, and at the same time cooperates and collaborates with teammates to help bring out their best too. It is the same with learning, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants, so learn together, share learning and be a better learner.
  8. Win and lose with dignity: Remember, it is not the destination that is truly important, rather it is the journey, and more specifically how you approach that journey.

I will finish where we started, with another Bill Shankly quote.

“Soccer is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better.” – Bill Shankly

In many ways, that is also true of learning and teaching. Keep it simple.  

Mr Adrian Puckering

Director of Curriculum Innovation and Development

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