Nick Capstick CEO
Hurrah the World Cup is over!
July 2014, SATs over, the cynical publics 6 week adjournment beckoning and I can’t help wondering how many of our beloved offspring in this country were subjected to the multi sensory overload and the polychromic onslaught that was the FIFA 2014 Brazilian World Cup.
Now, I didn’t spend that long as a classroom teacher, four years and twenty nine days to be precise before I went on to do a multitude of other educationally related things, but like all Headteacher’s I like to think that I can still cut the curriculum mustard with the best of them. Mine would have been an equal opportunities smorgasbord of culture, cuisine, colourful artwork and competition. My topic work would have been laced with the geographical and historical race to conquer the “Americas”. From this we’d have explored the moral arguments of colonisation interspersed with an in-depth knowledge and subjugation of the indigenous Incas or the Aztecs, think I might need to check up on those two. Numeracy would reflect the wealth of opportunity to delve deep into statistics, probability, shape, space, volume and money. We’d write newspaper articles as if we were touchline bystanders and letters home as if we were maritime galley boys (or girls for that matter). We’d keep a diary of our first steps on landing on a new continent and we’d sing Brazilian songs, in Portuguese of course. We’d plan the closing ceremony based on our analysis of the real opening of the tournament and in dance we’d do the Zumba if my hips were forgiving enough. It would be fun and fab rolled into one with very little marking to do. But I am not a teacher as I am sure many of you with any love of teaching and learning are eternally grateful for. My job is not to play the beautiful game and it’s not about life or death, it’s much more than that but no more or less important than that of my pitch based comrades. Mine, as a Headteacher, is to stand in the side-lined technical area orchestrating the majesty of all that we, as a team, have created on the pitch. By the time the whistle is blown for the first time in this game of two halves, team School vs team Ofsted, much of my work as coach, strategist, match play designer, team fitness guru and mentor is over. It’s game on. As in any cup final it’s been a hard slog to make us ready for what could be the difference between promotion to the premier league or relegation to the lesser divisions. Let’s hope the referee, Regie, we’ll call him, has come to play a fair game and is not too influenced by the never ending succession of rule changes which the governing authorities seemed to insist on making even mid season.
The more I get into this analogy the more I realise that there are parallels between our role as Heads and that of a leader in our national game.
Let’s start by looking at the players.
Often younger than us it’s a cacophony of journeymen oldies some still with great skills but lacking in pace and a real understanding of the changing tactics required to win, balanced against the youthful exuberance of your youth team players breaking into the full squad. What they lack in experience they more than make up for in the naive belief that this is a game for which you are chosen, a vocation beyond your control. Their desire to become a crowd pleaser occasionally overshadowed by a lack of consideration for other team mates. This raw talent needs shaping and nurturing and as a team coach you set about matching some of your star players with this fresh young blood, these more mature talents smiling inwardly as they reflect on their journey to competent maturity counted in months not years.
The more savvy among your playing staff become mentors, coaches and team captains marshalling the troops on and off the field and often sharing those team tactic talks with you, “the Gaffer” where the longer term team strategy is grown and developed. Illness, injury or a player severely out of form might make you look to the transfer market to bring in the fresh blood of players available on the open market or on loan from the supply agency. Either way the time taken to become an integral part of the team must be short if the harmony of your attack on ignorance and the unlearned is to be maintained. Behind the scenes the team of backroom support is ever more important. The non teaching physio’s who help to return an off form player back to their former glory, the fitness coaches who take team talks one night after school each week to ensure that the team is at the height of their game. The accountants who ensure we can bring in quality-experienced players as well the less expensive young bloods. The board of directors who if any good have an “eyes on, hands off” approach, always watching but keeping a discreet distance to allow us the first team coach to do their magic. They challenge underperformance where it’s been identified in certain players and by changing the “Boss” on occasion when relegation seems inevitable.
On big occasions and on a lesser scale, a weekly basis, we invite the big crowds of our supporters to join us and celebrate our successes and share the delights of our stadium. The ground staff will have prepared well ensuring the place looks and feels fit for purpose and we’ll role out the big knobs and directors to meet the public as they flood through the gates and the club chairman will possibly write some meaningful phrases in the monthly newsletter to fans based on a skeletal knowledge of key issues affecting the club and a goodly portion of flesh provided by the team manager.
Even the structure of our days is similar. We start with a team talk outlining what we believe in and the purpose of being part of our club. Enthused with this uplifting session we retire not to just keep endlessly playing this beautiful game but to learn the nuances and elements which when brought together make it worth doing. We learn, practice, rehearse and do a “show and tell” session before lunch is served and a bit of team bonding takes place over a calorie counted repast, which treats our bodies as the temples they truly are. Not a gram of sugar too much or an ounce of fat too many can be consumed if we are to be the lean, mean fighting machines who operate at the height of our abilities. Before the season starts we reflect on matches past and the collective worth of lessons learned over time. We understand how and where we need to build structure, form and performance over the coming months which will see us float ever higher to the top of the league gently avoiding mid table mediocrity and complacency.
On going money will spent throughout the playing season on the ground and stadium as time rarely allows major works or refurbishment until the close of play and the last corner flag is collected as summer starts. This is when we can reshape our facilities and maybe even plan for additional space to house the anticipated growth in playing staff.Our season at best feels like a well judged marathon race to the finish in the summer while avoiding an ill judged race to the bottom and relegation caused by a lack of funding, changes in the sports rules and regulations and sometimes peer support from surrounding club captains. The closed season is not one of endless holidays and parties but a recouping of energy and a reenergising of batteries before it all starts again.
When things go right we bask in the shared glory of a well written press piece and when the fickle finger of Lady Luck fails to point in our direction we deride the incompetent artistry of the local rag which really does beckon for it’s reinstated use in local fish and chip shops. We vow never to read the scurrilous trash again until we hear that a local school has just received “a visit” and we are keen to know the outcome without being rude enough to ask our neighbouring team manager.
Most of the time it feels and should feel like good fun. A strong team enjoying a shared sense of purpose and ambition combined with collective endeavour resulting in a shared mission of unity and focus. A collective family desire to succeed while ensuring no child is left behind and no family member is damaged by the journey on which we embark. All too often we forget just how exciting and addictive it can be and become and so as the shuttered windows of time close on the dimming sunlight over Brasilia it’s time to reflect not on opportunities missed, goals saved or the idiosyncratic decision making of incompetent “Refs” but on my new domestic season and this is where reality strikes me and I know it’s time to unlace my boots very soon.
It’s a young mans game, most of my fellow managers seem to have a youthful energy and zing in their step. Many still believing, and rightly so, they can take their team to the very top often as player/manager to boot. Worse than this is the realisation that ours has become a winter game, played in the foulest of conditions and as a man born to feel the sun on his bones and a tequila in his hands the tempestuous, storm ridden clouds of bureaucracy which threaten to wash away the fun of playing the game seems to play on my dodgy knees and arthritic hips. The youthful arrogance of my first ever headship in which I quietly and unspokenly believed I really was educations answer to this schools leadership needs has been bypassed by reality. Not for me the name of the “Chosen One”. The conditions are too cold, the winters too long and the frost ravaged pitches are no longer playable due to lack of grass roots funding. I am the “Frozen One” instead, frozen out but spring will be here soon and I believe crown green bowling can be more relaxing only I can’t help wondering what you have to do to win the premiership in that game too? Blimey, you never lose it so maybe I do have a few more seasons in me yet eh? Anyone got any dubbing or deep heat cream, I’ll take either.