All Black Lessons

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Even though it may be seen as a case of ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ I do see many lessons that can be taken from the All Blacks world cup victory on the weekend, in particular lessons that can be transferred from that campaign into an educational context.
By now we all know [if we didn’t before] that this current All Blacks team is a great rugby team, what interests me more though is how many are now describing them as a great sports team full stop, up there with the Brazil football team from the 70’s and the Michael Jordan era Chicago Bulls to name but two.
From an educational perspective I see many of the attributes of the current world champions that are transferrable to a school setting.
1. Shared Vision
There is no doubting the importance of having a shared vision that is easily understood by all, a vision that is aspirational and outcome orientated.
The vision is not just about the outcome but encompasses the ethos and the philosophy, the heart behind the desire to achieve that outcome.
A shared vision unites and gives a sense of purpose and therefore is vital in any community whether it be a sports team or a secondary school.
2. It is not all about results
Winning is important and wanting to achieve at the highest level is certainly what schools are aiming for but just as important is how you play the game.
Sonny Bill consoling a South African player at the end of the semi-final. The humility and dignity that were hallmarks of the All Blacks on and off the field. The composure with which they faced the media, the pride in representing their country and the respect they showed their opponents big and small are all characteristics of this team that were as important as the winner’s medals.
Developing moral purpose, a sense of love, respect and moral integrity is as important in schools as developing academic knowledge.
3. Goal orientated
Having goals and having a plan to achieve them provides motivation and determination. Achieving these goals can be a collaborative venture not simply a competitive one. Wanting to build an environment of collaboration and co-operation does not undermine being goal orientated it just ensures that the journey to that goal is done with an awareness of the community that we exist in.
No one could say that the Al Blacks were not goal orientated but it is to their credit that they always placed this desire in the context of the world they existed in. So Sonny Bill Williams offers his tickets to Syrian refugees, in the very moment when he is most focused on achieving a goal he remembers the context that he lives within.
4. Room for individuality
The strength of a team is built on unity and keeping to the plan but a great team also has room for the individual flair and creativity that makes for moments of sporting magic. Would the All Blacks be a good as they are without the individuality of Sonny Bill and Ma’a Nonu to name but two.
In the same way schools have a duty to provide opportunities for individuality and creativity to flourish. This is what we watch sport for, In fact it could be what we live for.
5. Appreciation of our bi cultural heritage
The haka is as much a part of All Black culture as the silver fern on a black jersey. It defines the team and sets them apart. Our bi cultural heritage is one of the factors that makes us unique as a nation and, like the All Blacks, we need to embrace it. The All Blacks are a fine example of multiculturalism working. A diverse collection of sportsmen from different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures come together for a common purpose and none of them has to lose who they are. Their background and culture is embraced and respected.
This in turn allows the team to evolve and so we saw the introduction of the arrowhead wedge formation when the haka was being performed. Embracing biculturalism has allowed the spirit of the team to continue to develop and grow,
Symbolically the message the wedge sent was profound, the sense of unity behind the leader and the feeling of a collective strength was palpable.
On the same way schools are richer if they embrace diversity. We are all stronger if every individual in our school can stand, be respected, appreciated and succeed as who they are.
6. Providing leadership opportunities.
There is a difference between being a leader and having leadership qualities. Hansen and Mc Caw are outstanding leaders. They lead by example and with a deep and ressuring calmness and they are a unique combination of qualities. We cannot all be leaders but we can all develop leadership qualities. Sam Cane was obviously being nurtured and developed as a future leader during this campaign and this was done in a supportive environment. He was given a taste of captaincy and was supported when he faced the media. The world cup for him was as much about his development as a leader as it was about his skills on the field. The number of players who fronted media sessions was an example of how leadership qualities can be developed without trying to turn out a huge group of leaders. What you do get though is an empowering of individuals who can step up and take responsibility when they need to.
Schools can also develop leadership qualities to empower our children to have the confidence and skills to accept challenges and responsibilities when and where they are needed.
7. Pride
It is stating the obvious to say that there was a genuine pride displayed by all members of the All Blacks but it was not just a pride of individual achievement as a result of hard work but a pride of representing their country, the jersey, and the past. It was a pride that they were role models for the next generation. It was a pride in acknowledging and understanding the responsibility that they had to carry.
It is pride based on what has gone before and what will follow rather than a pride based solely on personal accomplishment. Surely this is the pride we want our children to develop. It can only grow if they are aware of the lessons from the past and the possibilities of the future.
8. Personal accountability
I guess as a result of all of this we arrive at a situation where, when an individual has to step up they have the confidence and support to do just that. So just when some of us thought the final was turning and drifting out of our control Dan Carter decided that enough was enough and he took control. All of his pride, skill, belief backed by the rest of his team came to the fore and he took control.
Not many of our children will play for the Silver Ferns or the All Blacks but we can strive to build in them the grit and self-belief that they can face their own challenges with that same determination.

Before anyone classifies me as just another over enthusiastic rugby fanatic let me assure you that I am not. I am passionate about the round ball code but who can fail to be inspired by the exploits of the All Blacks.

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