Who Knew? 10 Ways Student Achievement Parallels the Olympics

Winter Olympics SochiBy Bill Henk – Like millions of television viewers worldwide, I find myself hopelessly transfixed by the Winter Olympics.  We’re talking mesmerized here.

And I can only speculate about why I’m so deeply engaged.  Keep in mind that these are sporting events that I NEVER ever ever watch otherwise.  Some are so new I didn’t even know they existed.  Some are so dangerous like Skeleton that they’re terrifying to watch.  Some, like Curling, I just don’t get.  Doesn’t matter.  There I sit.

Glued.  In awe of the skill levels, and especially struck by the jumps the figure skaters are now performing and blown away by the ridiculous aerial tricks of the skiiers.

Almost certainly the fascination can be traced to my status as a (very) former athlete.  Growing up, sports enraptured me, and I aspired to excel at almost any activity that demanded physical and mental skill and agility.  So now, as an official couch potato, I simply marvel at watching world-class athletes compete at the highest level.

As for this post, at one point in my marathon Olympics TV immersion, my mind drifted to thinking about similarities  between the performance of these athletes and student achievement in schools.  (Probably during Curling, but maybe the Biathlon).  And I won’t even mention that up until today, when we swept slopestyle skiing, Norway was making us look bad again internationally!  At least we’re finally doing better than tiny South Korea, who also outperforms us educationally and just happens to be the next host of the winter games.

Seriously, I’ll close out by sharing my Top 10 parallels between sports and education with you.  Although I’ve thought some about the relationship before, I’ve never done so in earnest let alone capture it in writing.  When I did, as you’ll see below, it turned out to be stronger than I had imagined.   Who knew?  Not me.

Anyway, there are lessons here for all of us who care about student learning — parents and guardians, teachers, school leaders, citizens, and of course, the students themselves.  See what you think.

  1. Goal setting is essential.
  2. Practice makes perfect, or close to it.
  3. Superior coaching/teaching provides an edge.
  4. Discipline and drive determine dexterity.
  5. Family support matters.
  6. Concentration clearly counts.
  7. Conditions affect performance.
  8. Society holds high expectations.
  9. Motivation matters mightily.
  10. There is GREAT value in the journey.

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