Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a teacher and I am also a qualified rugby coach. Recently the Department for Education announced that coaches from 14 of the top rugby clubs in the country will be coming into schools to coach ‘grit’.
Rugby is one of very few sports to have core values, which are Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship. They are outlined and described on the England Rugby website. From the nature of the game of rugby it is fairly clear that the sport could not function without the whole rugby community buying into these values. In fact, coaches are trained to include a least one of these core values into each of their sessions.
Another point that is emphasised during coach training is that the aim of coaching should be to develop young people through rugby. I commented in an earlier blog post that I have never heard anyone advocate developing young people through, for example, geography, although I would argue strongly that this should be encouraged. The main emphasis is in developing the young person, and rugby is secondary. In practice this means that coaches have to encourage the behaviours, attributes and attitudes that make players coachable and able to improve.
Coaches go through an exercise where they are ask to describe the qualities of their ideal player – you could do the same for your ideal learner in your subject. When we had finished we were asked to group these qualities into two sections: those to do with rugby ability, and those relating to personal qualities and attitude. We all found that there were very few, if any rugby related qualities but many relating to personal qualities and attitude. I am sure you would find a similar thing with your ideal learner.
My coach training also touched on the work of Carol Dweck and her work on mindset. We looked at feedback and what to praise. I have to say that I was very surprised and very pleased that this was part of the course. It is clear that the RFU do take note of developments and include then in their coach education.
Jerry Collins, who played for the renowned All Blacks, at the height of his career, turned out for Barnstable 2nd XV. In many way this behaviour tells us a great deal about what the sport of rugby is about. The video below tells the story:
So far, you might be thinking that I support the DfE’s idea of putting rugby coaches into schools, but as Alex Quigley points out on Twitter:
I strongly suspect GRIT can only be developed with your teacher/s who understands subject specific learning hurdles etc & not rugby coaches.
— Alex Quigley (@HuntingEnglish) May 31, 2015
This could well be the problem. I have already outlined that rugby coaches through their education and training are far more clued in than those outside of the sport might imagine but they are still rugby coaches and their expertise is in developing young people through the demands of that particular sport. There is no doubt that rugby does require a large dose of grit if someone is to be successful but it remains to be seen whether rugby coaches will be able to transfer their development of grit into the realm of school subjects. Certainly, before I trained as a rugby coach I was an experienced teacher, but I needed to train specifically so that I could ‘teach’ rugby. I rather suspect that coaches will find that the reverse is also true.