A guest post by Alwyn Poole:
I was once sitting in the staff room of a NZ boys school at the beginning of an academic year and they were discussing the previous year’s external exam results. The Head of Math stood and detailed how the student average in his subject was above the national level. The Head of Sciences did the same. The Head of English then stood and stated: “The English results are 5% below National average but keep in mind we are working with boys.” She spoke as if this was written in the stars and no one contradicted her. I guess if the likes of C. S. Lewis, Tolstoy or Tolkien, etc., were in the room then they at least would have guffawed.
In 2019 female school leavers in NZ were more likely to obtain UE than their male counterparts at 45.9% compared to 32.9%. Astounding and another indictment on our “world class” education system.
Throughout my adult life and through some of my formal qualifications – a Masters in the Education of High Ability students and a Post Grad Diploma in Sports Management – I have studied how people become good in education, sports, the arts, and professions. I have also had the privilege of seeing many great athletes in the flesh and to be astounded by their qualities. These are some of the males that I have seen (in no particular order).
All Blacks, NZ Cricket, B&I Lions, Nick Farr-Jones, John Eales, Australian Rugby Team (1990s version), M. D. Crowe, Frankie Fredericks, Donovan Bailey, Stuart O’Grady, Nick Willis, UCI World Champs 2015, Peter Sagan, Tom Boonen, Vincenzo Nibali, Greg Henderson, Cameron Brown, Hamish Carter, Bevan Docherty, Jan Frodeno, Javier Gomez
Alistair Brownlee, Craig Alexander, David Beckham, Julian Dean, France Rugby, Michael Jones, Jonah Lomu, Aaron Gate, Sam Webster, Dennis Lillie, Jeff Thompson, Greg Chappell
Richard Hadlee, John Walker, Rod Dixon, Dick Quax, Roger Federer, Leyton Hewitt, Mark Phillpousis, Michael Schumacher, Kimi Rikkonnen, Dale Earnhardt Jnr, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James, Chicago Bulls, Kyrie Irving, Tampa Bay Bucaneers, Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald, Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria, New England Patriots, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Andre Greipal, Michal Kwiatwoski, Rui Costa, Alejandro Valverde, Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, Peter Snell, Wynton Rufer, Auston Matthews, Bruins, Maple Leafs, Philemon Rono, Virat Kohli, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, Kane Williamson, Jasprit Pumbra, Graeme Hick, Tim Southee, SA Cricket, Indian Cricket, Australian Cricket.
I also had the privilege of spending time with the great Arthur Lydiard and many, many hours with NZ Olympic athletics and triathlon coach Jack Ralston. I have read many books on the topic of people becoming good at something including the remarkable Bounce by Matthew Syed and a whole stack of biographies. No one could say it more clearly than Lydiard but all other sources confirm it. Achievement and excellence in sport has very little to do with talent. It is always and everywhere hours and hours of well-directed purposeful practice and opportunities to perform and be challenged (especially to gain experience).
Academics is just the same and many of our boys have been sold a lie that school work is about inherent ability and that, stereotypically, they cannot achieve in many areas – especially those involving significant amounts of reading and/or writing. Teachers use that excuse far to often. To do well in any field young people have to be challenged and need to work hard. The expectations need to be high and effort/progress well rewarded.
For those of you with school age children the formula for their success is not rocket science but done well they could become rocket scientists. Next guest post I will give you the recipe.