"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime." ~ Babe Ruth
Spain 1982 was the first World Cup that I remember being totally engrossed in. I was 12 years old at the time playing for an Italian soccer club where I was the only Canadian on the team. Every game I watched was a learning experience. I realized quickly the passion Italians had for the game and how it was entrenched in their culture. I remember our coach telling us to watch every game, picking the player that played our position and to watch only their movements. I remember watching the Italian hero Paolo Rossi score 6 goals in the tournament. But what I remember most was how Italy grew as the tournament went on. They learned from each game, getting better and better culminating in an amazing team effort in the final to win the World Cup. This year's World Cup was no different in my eyes. The German's got better as the tournament went on. They had a goal scoring hero in Thomas Müller and they had an amazing team effort in the final to win the World Cup. I believe that schools can learn 3 important things from Germany's World Cup triumph.
Plan, Prepare and Set Goals
The Germans are envy of the soccer world when it comes to preparation. Not impressed with the training facilities in Brazil Germany built their own. They did this to give their players the best facilities to train on and to give them optimal conditions in which to recover from the strain of travel and playing in such hot and humid conditions. Before the tournament started they completed a 10 day preparation camp in the Italian Alps that was 3,300 feet above sea level. Training at altitude stimulates red blood cell production and increases stamina. They used 40 sport scientists to sift through data on each opponent. Brazil in comparison employs 2 staff to study player data. All of this was planned and organized with the goal to win the World Cup.
Don't Rely on One Player
Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar are arguably the 3 best players in the world. When these players don't produce their teams don't do well. Portugal were eliminated in the group stages and Ronaldo had very little impact on the tournament. Brazil went out with a thud after Neymar was injured and forced to leave the tournament. When Messi couldn't unlock the stout German defence, Argentina lost. In each of these cases it seemed like the coaches and players were playing without belief in their system and team as a whole.
The German's exemplified what it means to be a team. Yes they had a goal scoring star in Thomas Müller but they didn't rely on him to win. Their passing was a joy to watch. They recognized when something wasn't working for them and they changed their tactics. They never gave up. There is no more fitting example of this never give up attitude than midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in the final. He threw his body into shot after shot. He went into tackles without hesitation or fear of injury. When he was punched in the face going for a high ball which required stitches even the commentators thought his game was over. It wasn't. He was stitched up on the sidelines and entered the field of play just a few minutes later. I could go through each player on the German team and highlight examples of team play. They were simply the best team at the tournament and that is the reason they won.
So what can schools learn from Germany's example? First planning, preparing and setting goals is an important, not to mention valuable exercise for a school to work through. Leave no stone unturned would be a good theme for a school looking to help their students achieve. Plan engaging lessons and prepare teachers for working with the students in their care and set the bar high.
Secondly don't rely on that one "program" or strategy. I've seen this so many times. Schools take on a new tactic, strategy or program that is going to solve all their problems. Inevitably it fails and they are back to where they started. Instead focus on the people. Develop teachers that can provide engaging learning experience across the curriculum regardless of the resources they have at there finger tips. Give teachers an open slate to innovate in their classrooms for what they believe their students need.
Finally, good teams win! Inspire teachers to work together as they plan, develop and deliver instruction. Find out what is working in other classrooms by allowing each other to watch, question and learn. Play to teachers strengths. If teachers need support with mathematics instruction seek out that colleague who can help. Together teachers can form an amazing team that learn from each other, growing their practice and leadership which can only help students achieve.
I'd love to hear what you think!