OpEd Submission: Soccer by Daniel Gumarang, Computing and Education, 2001By mst • Apr 23rd, 2010 • Category: Science Education
I must admit, I am not a fan of the game. ‘Futebol,’ as Brazilians refer to soccer, is just not my thing. Neither is baseball, basketball nor football, and as an American, that is probably a shame. Having witnessed Brazil’s passion for the game, there was plenty to learn from futebol.
Our Tier II Brazil 2009 team attended a soccer match between Flamengo and Fluminense at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio De Janero, Brazil. On the way, we rode the subway and I did not think much of it. The trip, I thought, would be just another sporting event, and I was prepared to be a passive participant. It was not until we entered the stadium that I was enlightened by a friend’s explanation that we were about to step into the world-famous Maracanã Stadium. I realized I was walking on what some regarded as sacred grounds. Maracanã is apparently what Mecca is to Muslims, and for me, a soccer idiot, the experience was about to be meaningful.
As we looked for a place to plant our bottoms, there was no way to avoid the Brazilian sun. Very quickly, we found ourselves under a sliver of shade that was fast disappearing as the sun began its descent. Unfortunately, the stadium’s roof was only a temporary solution because it was still hot. This new heat was as powerful as the sun, and try as I could, finding a barrier against it was impossible. The heat was coming from the fans; I was experiencing the heat of futebol passion.
During the game, I witnessed how soccer fans made every kind of noise. One in particular is the rhythmic humming of drums which went for a continuous 45 minute period twice. Fans of Fluminense and Flamengo danced in a trance, sang songs, waved giant banners, chanted and sometimes insulted the others with hopes that their efforts will be rewarded with victory. With high expectations, fans intensified rooting efforts when the ball was in the immediate area of the goal. When a player successfully drove the ball past the goalie, a celebratory pandemonium, the likes of I have never experienced, erupted! I also found it most interesting when fans clapped and cheered just the same when a player who appears to be just seconds away from scoring misses and fails to deliver. It is at this point that I made a personal connection to the game as an educator.
Like most games, soccer is played globally. For the most part, it is played by amateurs and those who just love the game. In these settings, there are little or no spectators nor financial rewards for players. In these cases, amateur players rely exclusively on sheer personal determination and talent to produce high-performance play. The problem is, levels of determination fluctuate, and when levels are low, where does determination come from? On days when the will to run and kick the ball through defenders whose purpose is to prevent success, it may be necessary to seek assistance external from the self. Fortunately, professional soccer players have the luxury of fans who readily provide passionate encouragement any time.
The club’s fans are doing what I truly believe educators and parent should do more of. We must constantly provide the cheers necessary that encourage success. Furthermore, we need to provide the same level of motivation and encouragement when student engagement and interest are low and especially at times when they are not successful. In practice, many of us are guilty of low expectations. Imagine if soccer fans actually believed that players are incapable of making a goal? Some of us instantly stop encouraging when students fail. While consequences should be appropriate, students who are not successful are less likely to try again for they do not feel safe to do so. We know there are students who experience this as they are often castigated, scolded and made to feel bad when they fail to achieve. What are the chances of those students making another attempt? Again I make a parallel to soccer fans. If fans booed a player after failing to score, what is the incentive to do it again?
Watching a soccer match at Maracanã, I made an important connection between a game and the work of educating children. Prior to leaving, I was asked, “What can you possibly learn in Brazil that would make you a better administrator in Los Angeles?” This article is an attempt to share my learning. Like soccer fans, good teachers will do just about everything to cheer and encourage their students to succeed. The best educators (and parents) will do the same even if the student was not successful, just like the fans who continued their hoots and cheers after the player missed the goal.
Written by Daniel Gumarang, Computing and Education, 2001