Monday, July 11, 2011

What the US Women's Soccer Team taught me about education

Flickr CC - Mr Tickle - Wachoo Wachoo Tribe Congressman

I'm not sure how many people know that  I'm a huge soccer fan. It's the only sport I played growing up. I planned on playing in college until a knee injury ended that dream. That led me to coach some co-ed YMCA teams that really led me to consider teaching. If soccer is on, I'm watching. The World Cup match between the US and Brazil was an epic sporting event that should go down as one of the greatest matches, regardless of gender, of all time.

I've spent a fair amount of time watching the replays and reading recaps about the game. There were just some things that stood out to me that really parallel the current state of education.

To recap, the US had a one goal lead going into the second half. A foul was called on a US player, forcing the team to play with only 10 for the rest of the game, and it led to a Penalty Kick for the Brazilian team. Hope Solo, the US team's goalie came up big with a save on the shot attempt. However, Brazil was awarded another attempt, which the scored on, because a US player (ever so slightly) entered the box before the shot was taken. In extra time (overtime), Brazil scored another goal on a missed offside call. In extra time, the US scored the latest goal in World Cup history to tie the game and send it into Penalty Kicks where the US walked away victorious. Watch this recap to see what I'm talking about.

I feel the current state of education is reflected, in part, by this game. It feels like teachers across this country are down one man in the fight to save education. The pressure for education to save our children is on the shoulders of teachers and we are not a full squad. Our hands have been tied by some controversial decisions by people in charge. No matter how much we protest, the decisions have been made and we have to deal with them.

The US team never gave up in that game against Brazil. They still fought and pressured and played their game because they knew that they still had a chance. I see this every day on Twitter, blogs and Facebook. There are examples of educators fighting the good fight every day. We know that we can make a difference and continue to fight no matter what the score says.

It would be so easy for many of us to give up, hang our heads and let everyone else dictate to us what the game is going to look like, but we refuse. We keep plugging along knowing that our methods are what are going to help our kids. States can keep taking our funding away, but we will keep playing our game.

The US team fought hard knowing they could accomplish anything. It truly is an American ideal that I think teachers are showing more and more under the current conditions in education. As a group, we keep doing more with less. We will continue to do so because we know we will overcome these issues and our methods will see us through the end.

I don't have an analogy for the amazing goal by Abby Wambach. I feel that would be missing the point. Abby's goal was amazing, but it was because the team kept fighting and that team made it possible. I think that is what we, as teachers, need to remember. We know how to play the game and even if we seemed to be out-manned at the moment, we will continue to fight until the bitter end. I just hope we do not have to wait until the 122nd minute.

The US plays France on Wednesday at 11am EST. I hope you turn on the TV and watch these ladies kick some butt.

- @TheNerdyTeacher


  1. Great post, I too am a former soccer player and current fan. I would add that a major factor in the USA team's success occured before they set foot on the pitch. Those women are at the top of their game because of their relentless drive to improve for the sake of their teammates. Hours upon hours of practice resulted in excellent execution of their skills. Similarly, we as teachers must always be learning and honing our skills for the sake of our students. Mediocrity is not an option.

  2. Excellent post and great comment Chelsey. I too think Soccer is truly THE Beautiful Game. One of the greatest lessons I took away from the game was the amazing resolve and professionalism that our ladies showed on and off the field. If only we had that same commitment to excellence and a resolve to offer our children hope and the possibility to reach their dreams.

  3. I am also a huge soccer fan and admire what is becoming to be known as the American spirit; if there is a chance, we give extraordinary effort and believe we can win. The education analogy can be extended in this way as well; sometimes those in charge of the game (referees) have their own bias ( tunnel vision?) or worse, perhaps as now revealed in Turkey, their own self interest in mind.

  4. Nice post. Soccer had taught me also a lot of lessons. I enrolled in soccer camps in new york last summer and it made a difference in my life. I love soccer and it will always be in my heart no matter what I do in the future.


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