There are some great ways to use sports to teach children. Many teachers around the country are looking at the world series for inspiration. With so many wins by the Boston Red Sox they are a great team to focus on.
The Red Sox success came out of an environment and culture that is designed to be great for learning. Just as the common core learning standards are designed to raise the bar for our children, educators need to look at the conditions that create an environment for optimal learning: psychological safety.
Amy Edmondson, of the Harvard Business School, has found through her research that such an environment has high levels of psychological safety combined with high levels of accountability. I refer to this combination as “setting the bar high with a lot a cushions under it.”
The Red Sox story
The Red Sox went from last place to World Series Champion within the span of one year. This rapid transformation could be attributed several key changes that addressed both high accountability and high psychological safety:
Switched from a “me” culture to a “we” culture
They replaced certain players who performed at a high level individually for players whose statistics were not as good but who were considered “good clubhouse” guys. These were players who were noted for getting other players to value and “think” team over individual performance.
These players combined with players who were already team oriented and therefore tipped the whole culture in that direction. Their now famous bearded appearance was a visible sign of how they were united; that was more important than how they “looked.” These players knew the value of outward signs and ritual to create a strong team community.
Leadership that promoted shared leadership
They replaced a charismatic type manager with a low key unassuming one. The new manager preferred to let the spotlight be on the team and not him. He trusted his players to lead each other.
Players challenged themselves and supported each other in meeting that challenge. When someone deviated from this approach they took responsibility for reminding the player about what was important. His trust in his players was contagious — it helped them trust and challenge each other. So use sports to teach children!