What Ivan Fernandez Anaya can teach us all about authentic sportsmanship
We are a couple of weeks into our Athletics Unit here at Nanjing International School in China. Athletics is one of my favorite units to teach because there are a multitude of opportunities to address the big ideas and concepts related to perseverance, grit , effort, and sportsmanship. Of course other units offer our students similar learning opportunities, but Athletics provides that very special experience to touch upon the the important role that personal excellence plays in our lives.
Whenever possible, I try to find inspiring stories to share with my students to get them to understand that we can take valuable lessons learned in PE and transfer them over to real life. Doing so provides an internal frame of reference and makes learning much more relevant and applicable outside of our subject area. If I can achieve this aim, I feel as though I am not only providing some genuine learning experiences to my students, I'm also emphasizing the powerful role that physical education plays in a curriculum.
Using provocations to draw in my students is an essential part of the learning that takes place in my PE program . Developing those emotional hooks is a very powerful part of teaching and the research supports just how important it is . I've had a number of discussions with a good friend of mine, Dr. Dean Dudley, about the different teaching strategies that I use in PE. He is always my go to guy when it comes to helping me to better understand what the research says about good teaching practice. Although I knew that using provocations in the right way was a powerful teaching strategy, it was Dean who helped me to better break down the actual process in which I use provocations to enhance learning . Dean was then able to provide me with some valuable research by John Hattie that supports the idea that creating those emotional hooks with our students helps to pave the way for authentic learning. He helped me to better understand the process of my own teaching and to have research to back it up.
Instead of blasting my students with powerful provocations at the beginning of the Athletics unit as I have done in the past, I decided to change things up a bit. What I am doing differently is spreading these provocations out over the entire unit, giving them them little glimpses of inspiration and motivation steadily throughout. This allows me to have continued discussions with my students about the big ideas and concepts related to success in Athletics.
Provocation of the Day
We can discuss sportsmanship with our students until we are blue in the face and cannot breathe anymore, but making it real and showing true life examples is much more powerful. I wanted to share a GREAT story with my students today and as I told it, they were completely silent, ears perked, and listening intently . It is the story of Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a Spanish runner whose main event is the 5000-meter run.
In late 2012 Ivan demonstrated what true sportsmanship means by showing the world that it's not all about victory, that there is a very important place for sportsmanship. He in fact gave up a sure victory to prove that sportsmanship much always prevail in the end. And he is certainly remembered more for showing this act of genuine sportsmanship than for any other victory he may have had in his young racing career.
With about 50 meters to go in the European 5000-meter championship, Ivan was giving it his all but could not catch the lead runner a few meters ahead of him, a Kenyan runner named Abel Mutai. As Abel was about 25 meters from the finish line, he thought that he had actually finished the race and won the championship. Ivan knew full well that a catastrophe of a mistake was taking place and could have taken complete advantage of it, passed him, and snatched victory out of his hands. Instead Ivan knew he had to do the right thing . As he ran up behind him, he gently put his hand on Abel 's back and point to the finish line letting know he had not finished yet. Ivan then stayed right behind Abel as they crossed the finish line, Abel winning and Ivan finishing second. In Ivan's own words he said this:
"I didn't deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn't have closed if he hadn't made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn't going to pass him."
This is a wonderful story and powerful provocation to share with your students, regardless of age. Stories that embody the true meaning of sportsmanship need to be shared and discussed. My students loved this story and talked about just how caring of a person Ivan must be. I could see their eyes light up as I told the story and when I showed the actual picture of Ivan and Abel at the end of the story, they sat in silence examining the photo. Well worth the 5 minutes of inactive time at the end of my PE lesson this morning!! The story can be found here.