Parallels Between Success in Sports & Effective Learning

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It has been my thesis that successful sports teams (having excellent coaches) have much in common with effective learners (having excellent teachers). Here is an example that I believe illustrates this quite well.

From the Manchester Journal Inquirer of Thursday, November 12, 2015; article by Carl Adamec titled “WINNING FORMULA” on Page B4:

“So many times teams that put the focus on ‘Refuse to lose’ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to win,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to lose. Who goes into a game saying it’s OK to lose? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to win.

“Some have a greater will to win. To do that, you can’t be afraid to lose. Sometimes teams are their own worst enemies. Coaches are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about losing. We know that losing is part of the game. Any time they keep score, you might lose. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to be successful?’ It works for us.”

[Aside: For those of you who don’t follow NCAA Women’s Basketball, Geno Auriemma is the head coach of the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball program. They have won ten national championships since 1995 and will be seeking their unprecedented fourth national championship in the season beginning for them on Monday, November 16, 2015.]

Let’s take the excerpt from the Jounal Inquirer and change / add just a few words (italicized and underlined):


“So many times schools that put the focus on ‘Refuse to make mistakes‘ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to learn,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to make mistakes. Who goes into a situation saying it’s OK to make mistakes? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to learn and get the best outcome.

“Some have a greater will to learn and get the best outcome. To do that, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes teams of learners are their own worst enemies. Teachers are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about making mistakes. We know that making mistakes is part of the learning / doing process. Any time they assess learning, you might make mistakes. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to learn from our mistakes and be successful?’ It works for us.”

Two thoughts: First, Coach Auriemma could talk about his team and his coaching style using the alternate version I concocted and his players might wonder about the lack of basketball terminology; but they would understand the message I think. Second, I believe this alternate version should be the goal of all schools and teachers for their students: take risks, learn from your mistakes, don’t focus on not making mistakes, and you’ll have greater success.

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