On Monday afternoon, we held our annual faculty/staff vs. students soccer game. I consider myself to be quite the armchair soccer expert, but what my brain sees and how my feet move are two completely different things. Nevertheless, I suited up for the match.
It was seven on seven, with our fearless gym teacher coaching. A group of faculty and staff spanning some 45 years in age lined up ready to take on our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. A crowd of students and parents cheered and waved signs. When the whistle blew and I felt the first accidental shoe crash into my shin, I began to think about how the game would progress. Should we take them on as if our lives depended on it? Should we let them score early and often? What were the lessons they would take away from both of those approaches? And which ones were right?
Having seen similar age groups play team soccer over the years, I expected that we would have a pack of kids trailing after the ball without much thought for strategy or collaboration. It became clear rather quickly that we were in for a different sort of game. During water breaks and time outs, there were huddles and discussion. They communicated, made suggestions, tried different things, set up their plays. They encouraged each other, high-fived their keeper after every save, picked each other up (and sometimes us!), checked in, and went on. And they played HARD. For the record, so did we.
The final score was 3-2 students. They earned every goal, and so did we. Life is naturally competitive. School should not teach us otherwise. But as we lined up to shake their hands after the game and laughed about what fun we’d had, it struck me that the principles we foster in the classroom are alive and well on the soccer field. Collaboration, creativity, kindness, and acceptance of our differences are as much of a presence there as they are throughout the school day. And most importantly, we all seem to understand that the joy of accomplishment is as much in the doing as it is in the winning.