Knowing where the line is.

Tonight, the AFL Finals Series begins – but before we descend into the grip on ‘finals fever’ I’d like to take a quick look at the last match of the home and away season between Port Adelaide and Collingwood for an important lesson about schooling.

As a fervent Richmond supporter, I’m genetically predisposed to disliking everything that Collingwood players do.  But today I’m making an exception due to my thorough impress with a young man called Darcy Moore.

As Moore and his opponent, Todd Marshall, sprinted toward both the ball and the boundary line, they were both equally tenacious in their competition.  But in this instance, the boundary line was the winner and the players were unable to keep play going.

Marshall found himself hurtling perilously toward the fence, so desperate was he in chasing the footy.  Slowing down was clearly not something he’d factored in … until it was too late.

Watch what happens next.

You even might need to watch it a couple of times to see the moment of sportsmanship in Moore briefly tugging on Marshall’s arm to slow him down to a safer speed and back into the realms of his own personal control.

What Moore gets is that a line, both literal and philosophical, had been crossed and that his behavioural set for one side of that line is different to the other.  In a just a heartbeat and in the act of immense physical exertion, it’s a display of impressive emotional intelligence and empathy.

By contrast, Moore’s teammate Taylor Adams also found himself crossing that line near an opponent a little later in the match.  Clearly frustrated at his side not performing well, Adams’ choice was to shove his opponent in the back and into the fence – costing him both a free kick and more than a little respect.

It was almost as though Adams just didn’t know the line was there … or perhaps he just didn’t care.

And how is this relevant to schools?  Well, consider how many students in our schools:

– just don’t know where the line is between collaborating and competing.
– struggle with invisible lines or mixed messaging.  For example, competition is almost inherent in a PE lesson, but are there rituals to tell students that they’ve crossed a line from competing back into working together? I’ll bet that Adams has been told to both be a responsible role model and a merciless competitive animal and the result of that mixed messaging is undoubtedly erratic behaviour choices under pressure.
– benefit from some teaching and learning when lines are crossed as opposed to being merely expected to learn from the umpire’s penalty.

Myself, I just hope Taylor Adams is learning where the line is this week so that he can improve as a sportsman.  He’s been publicly punished already – and that didn’t seem to achieve much.

Instead, he might consider squeezing in a coffee chat with Darcy Moore.  Not all behavioural lessons need to be learned the hard way.

Warm regards,