I've spent the last several weeks reading and viewing everything I can about Bill Snyder and the success K-State football is enjoying right now. Right off the bat I should admit that I bleed purple. K-State purple. I have a letter jacket and a class ring because I played softball for K-State back in the day. I have loved my Wildcats for many, many years. Are there greater fans who give more money and are more vocal? Definitely. But there isn't anyone who loves the "K-State way" more than I do. OK. Let's put that to rest and focus on what we can learn from the Bill Snyder way of doing things.
People are in awe of K-State's current success and recent resurgence, and many have jumped on this bandwagon. In a world full of fast technology and new ways of doing familiar things, Coach Snyder has found a way to be successful doing what he knows best even with today's kids who have never known what it's like to not have a cell phone or to play music on albums or tapes. No one says he hasn't changed his schemes to better utilize his talent or learned to use some of the new technology to scout and recruit, but he still relies on values, skills, and work ethic that are now part of the new Common Core. We are seeing a resurgence of those work values that Bill Snyder has never abandoned. He has a plan; he has a successful way of doing it; and he sticks to it. He models his expectations and he demands accountability by being respectful and true to his beliefs.
Bill Snyder is no different than other great coaches who have excelled in their field like Pat Summit of Tennessee and the legendary John Wooden of UCLA. Their expectations, work ethic, and commitment were paralleled by few but admired by all. The only exception to that may be that he's done it with less than 5 star talent, but rather with recruits who have a 5 star work ethic.
What can we, in education, learn from Coach Snyder? He is, after all, a teacher first; a a leader of students; and an educator to all of us.
I read an article in my ASCD brief the other day that talked about the way we have gone about implementing Common Core. The author pointed out that CCSS was essentially given to teachers and schools as the "what" before we gave them the "why" and the "how." Wouldn't it have been easier to implement if we didn't get the cart before the horse? I'll bet Bill Snyder doesn't do that.
Coach Snyder has 16 Goals for Success. What are they, you ask? To quote from the K-State website:
The 16 goals form the foundation for success, and create the work ethic and discipline that goes with them. With players and coaches from all backgrounds, having a single set of core values unifies them under one vision. If each adheres to the goals as individuals, then team success will follow.
Snyder believes the 16 goals are not only critical to success on the field, but also in everyday life. Once someone has dedicated themselves to doing things the right way, their chance of success in any field is dramatically increased.
Without the 16 Goals for Success, there is no "why" or "how." These add meaning to the content of football and give everyone a common place from which to teach and learn.
So what about schools? How could we use this? We have many frameworks that would allow us to properly train teachers to implement whatever curricula or strategy we want them to. But too often, we just say "here it is and make it happen" without setting them up to succeed. We also have good intentions when we teach students desired content. But they too need to know "why" and "how" so that the content becomes meaningful and transferable to the real world. After all, isn't that why we have kids go to school, so they can take what they have learned and use it in their adult lives? What would happen if we posted and lived by the 16 Goals for Success?
Let's address a few of these goals:
Commitment: I think we can all agree, that this is a necessary element for anything to succeed whether it's in a school or in a relationship. What does it take to be committed? What happens if this goal is overlooked?
Unselfishness: We have to be a team to be successful. No jealousy. Be willing to share knowledge and ideas and skills. Not needing the credit, just happy to help.
Unity. Coming together through thick and thin; helping one another; shouldering the responsibility together; never pointing fingers. Common language and common goals.
Great Effort: Working hard to improve, to learn, to succeed is a lifetime skill we can all use in every facet of our lives. No great relationship exists without great effort. No success is sustained without continued effort. And it starts with "I".
Enthusiasm: Get excited! Enthusiasm spreads quickly! Just as the negative attitude is contagious, so is the enthusiasm that one has for a project, the topic, or even the day! That's one reason K-State exceeds expectations - we are all enthusiastic about our brand - and it shows! So in school, it is time well spent to get all stakeholders to get on the enthusiasm bandwagon! Be proud! Be exited! Let it show!
Improvement: This is the last goal I will emphasize because it is the quest to improve that keeps us growing, learning, and moving forward. As Coach Snyder says nearly every day and in every interview, "We're just trying to get a little bit better everyday." That sounds like a realistic goal and something each of us can control, whether we're in a game on the field or in the game of life.
So tomorrow, K-State takes on another ranked team. The Big XII title and a chance at the national title, are on the line. Talk about high stakes testing! But their focus will be on improvement, understanding that the winning will take care of itself. And on Monday, schools everywhere will start their week learning new things, hopefully with the quest in mind that everyone can get better everyday. Those that have a plan in place to address all aspects of teaching and learning, to provide support for both teachers and students to be successful, and who focus on improvement will succeed. There are moments and days where we will stumble, but built into our plan is the expectation to get up and try again.
The Bill Snyder Way.... Racing to the top one step at a time. It's time we took not just a page from Bill's book on how to produce success, but just implement the whole book!