Saturday, November 13, 2010

Be Good in Class or You're Kicked off the Soccer Team!

 Recently I read about a teacher that is linking class behavior (including bad work ethic) of her soccer players, a school team, with the opportunity to be on the team.  She told other teachers in the school the following, "If your student plays on my team and they are misbehaving in class, I will remove that student from the team."  The players were told, "If I get a  report from your teachers about bad behavior, you will be removed from  the team." In sum, a player's behavior in school is directly linked to his/her right to be on the team.
After reading the article and thinking about this proposition, I submit there are many things wrong with this. Here are a few questions and thoughts:

Soccer is being used as a reward and punishment- if behavior in class is good you are on the team, if it is bad, you are off.  Why the manipulation?  What is going on in class if a student is misbehaving?  Is the student  bored?  Why are students being bribed by soccer to behave? Is the school work not worth doing?  Is this bribery affecting his or her desire to learn?  Alfie Kohn notes, "Both rewards and punishments are ways of manipulating behavior that destroy the potential for real learning."

also think of the coach.  Why is the coach using her soccer team as a way of disciplining students for other teachers? Those teachers should be building better relationships with his/her students, not getting the coach to "discipline" his/her students.  And if the coach has to kick a player off the team, does it not damage the relationship that the coach has with that child?

I believe that sports should be unto itself. The teacher that is having problems with a student in class should work with that student to find the problem, not use something that the student loves to do and take it from them. Indeed, as Alfie Kohn noted, "Punishment by any name, even consequences, ruptures the safe and caring alliance that must be nourished between teacher and student."

Check out what Alfie Kohn has to say about punishment:



  1. I agree. There is something wrong, an inherent desire to take away something of value to a child, when we link classroom behaviour to extra-curricular activities.

  2. I think there IS a link between classroom behaviour and extracurricular opportunities. BUT if I were to write a post about my beliefs on this matter, I'd have to title it "Not Good in Class?? Can I Convince You to Join our Soccer Team???" I believe in the Extracurricular Advantage that is discussed by Douglas Reeves ( The words make sense to me and when I put them into practice, I saw the results Reeves predicts.

    It also ties in to the WDYDIST Report ( ) that I first heard about from Shawn Perry (@mathcoachsp) at OAME 2010. Student learning is connected to engagement -- academic engagement, intellectual engagement and social engagement -- and the schools that do well fostering all three tend to be the same schools that are most effective in supporting student learning.

  3. M.K. Thanks for your comment. I never thought of the opposite-- getting students to join if they experience problems in class. That is great!

  4. Great post Brian! I used to be an Athletic director at a large BC high school an the battle we had around this made me want to leave. For some students, athletics is one of the few positives in their lives. There is something about being student athlete and there is responsibility that comes with this (ie. Attendance) but to use a student's passion as a reward/punishment is just wrong. Can you imagine a math teacher saying "you got a yellow card so you are not allowed to come to class". That sounds absurd but if we really believe that students' strengths are important, we can see the relationship between the two opposite scenarios.

    As a teacher/coach I always felt it was my responsibility to support my students who were athletes an to support my athlete who were students. Working with the students to help them success in school is alway the goal but doing thi using rewards and punishment never works long term.

  5. Great post! Here's something I was thinking... often these same thinkers that believe we can just take away something like, soccer, because of behavior often use other sayings like, "In the real world, kid, you won't be able to..." Well, in the real world, if you stink it up at work and do not do your job properly, guess what, you can still go to your soccer practice after. That's right, the boss won't call your coach and say you are kicked off the team. And, maybe, perhaps, you can burn off some of that steam from your awful day at 'work' and have a more productive/effective day tomorrow. Awesome post! I hope more of those old school punishment disciplinaries read this. Oh and I love what Alfie said. It seems to simple, but yet for some reason people just continue to teach and parent in the way they were taught or raised.

  6. But in the real world people talk. When I had a student teacher, one of my students started skipping class. His absences were reported, but I noticed the boy was still going to shop class. I asked his shop teacher to just ask him why. When the shop teacher asked him the next day, the boy's jaw dropped. He showed up to class that day and every day since.

  7. This is a very interesting discussion, and I'm please to see the dialogue. I don't, however, agree with everything being written.

    With privilege comes responsibility, and one of you touched on this. Extra-curricular athletics (or drama or chess club for that matter) are all privileges. If we want children to take advantage of these privileges, we must expect some level of responsibility. There is nothing wrong with implementing a code of conduct. And, as Chris Wejr suggested, we should work with students to assist them in accomplishing the terms of this code of conduct. I'm sorry that some classes are boring; neither I or the student have control over teaching styles. What the student can control, however, is her response to the boredom. Acting out in class is never appropriate, and coaches/mentors would be remiss if they didn't assist their athletes in learning this. What the coach needs to do is support the athlete and encourage her to make better choices, whether that's behavioural choices or course selections. It isn't and shouldn't be about punishment. We are responsible for our actions, and it's important to hold individuals accountable for their actions. They'll become better people for it.

  8. An interesting post. Having been a Secondary School Athletic Director, a coach for 18 years, and now a principal at a large secondary school with an extensive athletic program (and still a coach), we do impress upon our students that they are student-athletes, not athlete-students. I completely agree that we must make sure that we engage students as best as we can in the classroom, but I also believe that when extra-curricular school activities impinge upon a student's opportunity to learn (ie. when I take my team out of school on a Friday to attend a tournament), this can also lead to a disconnect between a student and their studies, a subsequently between student-athlete and teacher. Once this happens, negative behaviours can and do happen.

    My point to all of this is that there are times when a student does need that reminder that their behaviour in class can be connected to their participation on the soccer team. Taking away soccer should not be an automatic consequence at all, but there are times when it is the right thing to do.

    The key to me is to investigate what the real issue is so that the the consequence is appropriate, don't just go for the extracurricular as the punishment.

    Just one person's opinion.

  9. @Kim Masson Wondering whether students attend school to serve teachers or if teachers are supposed to serve students, every student not just the well behaved ones? If a student is bored in a class, is the student obligated to conform and comply to suit the teacher's needs or does the teacher have some responsibility to reflect on their practice and reach out to all bored students to make the learning more meaningful and relevant? Finally, just because it's always been this way, does that make it right or good or the best way?

  10. Indeed Anonymous, if students are supposed to control their boredom in class and be compliant, nothing would ever change! If that is the case, students suffer.