Schools Should Learn From Football

Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football-


Camus was a better writer than he was goalkeeper, but he owed a debt to football. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all write a pithy aphorism that sums up our relationship to our work, wouldn’t it be wonderful if our work allowed us time for reflection and to be able to say, as Hugo Lloris, another goalkeeper, says of his work at Tottenham Hotspur: “I’ve flourished completely here…”? It might be the lot of the goalkeeper that they have time to be reflective and the experience of glory and ignominy, sometimes within minutes of each other, would bring about an attitude of sangfroid that might create a philosophical view of life.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if schools were places in which children could reflect upon morality, obligations and flourishing. To flourish. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all places of work valued life beyond the ‘bottom line’ and the mere chasing of results. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?

The worlds of work and formal education can learn from football. It seems, too often, business and schools are in some sort of corrupting relationship through which it is a school’s job to deliver work-ready beasts of burden, sorry school-leavers, with the requisite 21st century skills to excel in a job market with a surfeit of jobs that have yet to be invented. Schools sell their soul to businesses by entering into the language of the workplace and justify that all that they do is deliver exam results so you can get a good job and get the necessary soft skills for everything from job interviews to being able to succeed in the boardroom, and what do they get for their pains? Constant sniping from ‘bosses’ that the children ‘delivered’ to their employ lack the necessary skills.

Football clubs, worth their salt, wouldn’t complain about schools not delivering footballers with the necessary skills, instead they’d invest more and more time on developing raw talent, working with skills academies and spending most of the working week on training their employees, rather than moaning and moping.

This is not enough, however. When I was in Moscow, I was shown factories with theatres attached, now I’m sure that the theatre played out in the factories at the time they were built was heavily censored and indoctrinated the workers but the idea of a theatre at a workplace as something more than workers’ playtime appeals to me. Indeed, it could have something of the ‘Worker’s Educational Association’ about it, as Tawney put it:

All serious educational movements have in England been also social movements. They have been the expression in one sphere – the training of mind and character – of some distinctive conception of the life proper to man and of the kind of society in which he can best live it.

To me, this is not “training of mind and character” for the workplace, or of a fixed notion as to what character is, instead it is about including as many as possible in the ‘conversation of mankind’ but far too many schools are abandoning the pursuit of wisdom in the face of lesser aims.

Schools must educate for the good of humanity, not business. Business should aim to train their employees and develop them too. It is to football that I return to paint the ideal picture for businesses and schools, Ostersunds FK are a Swedish football club with an English manager, Graham Potter. As it says in the Times:

Every year, at the end of the season, all of the club’s staff – players, coaches, those who work behind the scenes – produce and star in a cultural showcase. Dancing was last year’s theme; [a production of Swan Lake] this year’s is set to be Sound and Singing. One year the players wrote a book… another they staged a play… There cannot be many clubs that run a book group, one of the set texts last year was Dostoyevsky… the players regularly volunteer at a relocation centre near the town… 

Potter says that: “Exposing the players to the other sides of life – whether it is theatre or work with refugees – makes them more rounded people…”

At the moment things are working out for the club as they are becoming more and more successful but I would hope that this philosophy would continue even if they were being relegated. It is something that all businesses should foster and it should be something that is at the core of every education institution.

Schools should expand the self, not narrow the self.

3 thoughts on “Schools Should Learn From Football

  1. Kevin got there first with the quip, well said, I am of course as sick as a parrot having given 110%.
    A great picture of Albert C, 80’s memories of shuffling around New Cross, clad in a charity shop overcoat of angst, pockets stuffed with penguin modern classics.
    I did not grow up in a household where paperbacks of existentialist literature were available, perhaps enough has been better said, but it was Bowie who encouraged my interest. Through the medium of John Peel and the NME.
    Gatekeeper, goalkeeper maybe even DJ, I do think it is important for every teacher to take an interest in their charges’ cultural lives and do their upmost to enhance their appreciation of culture within and outside of the subject being taught.
    Thank you for helping me to understand this with greater clarity

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was in Moscow, I was shown factories with theatres attached

    Not because workers, or management, thought it was a good idea though. I bet they would have preferred a football pitch (or, being Russia, a bar).

    Generally you are not in favour of The Government micro-managing what is good for us and what isn’t. It cuts both ways. Let schools get on with education. And leave factories to making things.


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