Fighting the negative mindset

I watched the Spain versus Portugal World Cup match last night and it seemed to be like so many of the matches in this competition. The Portuguese, who have some really good creative players found it impossible to get away from the negative tactics that they had set out to play the game with.

From the kick off it was obvious that the Portuguese approach was to pack their defence and let the Spanish attack them knowing that, if they could grind out a draw the match would go to penalties or, more likely, the Spanish would commit too many men forward and they would be open to a swift counter attack.

My concern with this is that it highlights the “negative mindset” that all human beings are capable of getting into. It relates as much to football as to schooling and it has the same results. Yesterday, after the Spanish scored their goal the Portuguese found it impossible to go to a Plan B, there was just no way that they could change their way of thinking as a collective group. On the few occasions that they did manage to get forward they seemed to forget that they had to create openings and score in order to revert to their original plan.

The creativity was just not there and that is because creativity is frozen when the negative mindset is switched on. I see this all the time with children in school and in particular in the area that I deal with on a daily basis, mathematics. It is called the “I can’t do this”  attitude and it definitely a “mindset”. It is the child’s equivalent of the Portuguese players last night. Even when they know that they have the capacity to use their creative potential to visualise a problem or to contextualize it in respect of their everyday life, they cannot do it.

I feel that it is the job of a good coach and a good teacher to open up the minds of those who are in their charge. They have to know that they have potential to learn and that they have creative capacities that will literally transform the game 0r the lesson. Recently I have been working with a group of Year 5 children (Grade 4) and I have concentrated on just two things…. creativity and their self expression as well as building a “Can Do” attitude. The results have been very good…. it is not about the specific teaching of skills that they have been taught so many times before (that is analagous to coaching the defence splitting pass that the Portuguese players just could not do last night). It is about working on the mindset which makes all the difference.

At the end of the match yesterday the Portuguese players traipsed off the pitch looking sad and sorry. We the spectators were really the losers though because a potentially classic match had been taken away from us by the coach instilling fear of loss into his players and not allowing them to express themselves on the pitch.

As teachers we need to bear this in mind all the time when working with our pupils…… football at it is best is a beautiful game… learning and the flowering of children’s abilities and skills is a beautiful experience…. beware of the negative mindset that fights the beauty and very often wins!


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