Thursday, December 12, 2019
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In life, that’s how the ball bounces

The NFL season came to an end for both the Ravens and the Bears on Sunday, January 6, as both teams lost their first-round playoff games, games that briefly looked like they would go the other way.

For the Bears, the field goal attempt that hit the upright and the crossbar at the end of the game taught some sports-obsessed kids a valuable lesson, writes Heidi Stevens in the “Balancing Act” column for the Chicago Tribune.

“I showed my kids a couple of the cruel tweets,” she writes to Cody Parkey, the kicker who missed the field goal attempt that would have won the game. “I asked them how they thought it would feel, after a so-so performance, if people piled on and called them names and threatened them. I told them how I would feel if people did that to me every time I made a mistake at work.

“We talked about how pro athletes—despite giant paychecks and enviable endorsements and the (fickle) adoration of millions—are humans first. And no game is grounds for threatening or abusing a fellow human.

“As long as I’m raising sports-obsessed kids, I’m going to be searching deep and wide for the instructions we can glean from the triumphs and defeats and all the layers therein. You handed us a book of them on Sunday—mostly, I guess, by being human,” she concludes.

Principal Carol Goddard and Osborne (Jade Pinkowitz / student newspaper)

And for the Ravens, the final drives to score some catch-up points that fell just a bit short when time ran out showed how, even in the NFL, players don’t give up. That lesson was driven home to student-athletes at Watkins Mill High School when Ravens strength and conditioning coach Robert Osborne talked to students on the Friday before the game, editor in chief Nana Osei Tutu writes in The Current, the student newspaper at the school in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“If I didn’t make the right decision, I would probably be in jail,” she quoted the coach as saying. He’s a 2008 graduate from nearby Clarksburg High School. “The mindset and making the right decisions can lead to either a good choice or a bad choice in life.”

What he’s referring to as “mindset” is a familiar concept to educators. Carol Dweck of Stanford University says:

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.

Or better at sports. In other words, as students (or teachers or parents) make the right decisions, no point deficit is insurmountable. Yeah, sometimes you run out of time or miss a field goal by inches, but the point is to keep trying.

“Osborne received the opportunity to train with a coach outside of school who sponsored him because he could not afford it,” Ms Tutu continues. “His trainer was shot and killed the day before his signing day for college. ‘I lost my trainer. He was like a dad to me,’ Osborne said. Osborne began to give up on everything until his mentor began to motivate him again.

“About five years ago, Osborne continued to get cut and sent home from jobs. He began working with Steve Saunders, who is now the head strength and conditioning coach for the Baltimore Ravens, and was offered a job with the team.”

The ball will bounce where it bounces. The game clock is not infinite. But life goes on—for pro athletes, for students, for teachers, and for all us humans. So keep your mind focused on continuous improvement anyway.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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