Our AFL (Australian Football League) season has begun. We’ve had three rounds so far this season and my team, the Melbourne Demons, have lost all three games. By significant margins. Not for the first time, we’re near the bottom of the ladder. Some things don’t seem to change much.
But appearances can be deceptive. When the Demons were winning everything in the 50s and early 60s, football was a very different game. The players were virtually amateurs, training was by modern standards a pretty relaxed affair, and on game day the coach’s role was to spur the players with a ‘blood and guts’ type speech before the game.
It’s not like that anymore. Football writer Martin Flanagan described what he saw when he spent a day with the Demons’ coaching staff before the first match of the season, a few weeks ago:
There was a last team meeting with midfield coach Mark Williams. Williams brings excitement and passion to the game. He and the midfielders discuss the structures they will adopt. I don’t understand a word. Football was a relatively simple game when I encountered it. Now it’s much more technical. Josh Mahoney takes the forwards. I vaguely understand what he is saying. It bears some resemblance to the game I thought I knew, although there is no mention of terms such as full-forward. The forward roles are numbered …The coach’s box defies description. It’s like being inside the mind of a six-headed creature that’s playing chess with mobile chess pieces that have minds of their own.
Everything about football has changed, and everyone knows it. I watch post-match discussions on TV and, like Martin Flanagan, understand very little.
Schools haven’t changed much. I’ve been teaching for 40 years and it’s never been a big effort to keep up. Structures are pretty much the same. Attitudes and assessment practices are familiar.
It’s a pity, especially given that the world has changed.
What will it take, I wonder, for schools to respond to a changing world as radically as football clubs have done?