Monday, August 06, 2007

Bocce v. Kickball

Summer 2007 - Del Rey team - DC Bocce League

Guess which one I am........

This is the first time in many years I have played a team sport and have enjoyed myself. I'm not a jock to begin with and have little patience for folks who take games too seriously. Unless there is a significant amount of money at stake, most recreational activities are not worth getting bent out of shape for. I have enough stressors in my life.

Most of us played kickball together a few years back. I made it through the 2005 Spring season out of a sense of obligation. I found the pre-game (catching up with friends) infinitely more satisfying than the game itself or the post-game flip-cup competition. Within 2 seasons after my tenure on the team, the rest of my friends (save 1) decided that they had had enough.

At a BBQ and Bocce practice last night, my teammates and I talked about the differences between the 2 experiences and why we are finding bocce more enjoyable.

Consensus #1: As much as we hate to admit it, playing drinking games in public well past your 30s whiffs of desperation.

Consensus #2: The type As wrecked kickball for the rest of us. Listen folks - you are smacking a large red rubber ball around a scrubby playground. This is NOT worth berating your teammates over. I have already informed my bocce teammates that as soon as the type As invade the league - I'm outta there.

Consensus #3: It's nice to have smaller teams. The 6 of us (Miller didn't play the week we took that picture) have known each other for at least 2 years. Will (the guy looking sideways), Miller, and I have known each other since undergrad (more years ago than I care to think about right now). The other 3 have been around the crew for 2-5 years. We know each other's habits and productively keep each other in line. Much easier to do when there are fewer cats to herd.

Consensus #4: The bocce season only lasts 5 weeks. Everyone makes the playoffs. If things go well, you are playing 3 more weeks. Or, if things also go well, you are only on the hook for 1 more week. And you only need 2 people from the team to show up without forfeiting. The commitment is a lot less daunting.

So what does this have to do with education?

Well, it got me thinking about my preferences in education. There seems to be a link between the 2.

Preference #1: I've never been a huge fan of "getting to know you" games during training sessions or online classes. Especially when there seems to be no point other than "community-building." Some of us just want the material (yes, I KNOW I'm in the minority on this one).

Preference #2: I think we need to get away from education as a competitive activity. We see it in the schools (look at the people with the nice shiny As), and we occasionally see it in corporate training. Maybe it's just me, but competition when I'm trying to learn something is more DEMOTIVATING than motivating. And more distracting.

Preference #3: I like smaller classes - both when I'm the teacher AND when I'm the student. As a teacher, it is easier to accommodate everyones' needs. As a student, it is easier to get the attention you need. I also find that people are more willing to participate in smaller classes, especially when they are familiar with the other students, than in larger classes. I know I am....

Preference #4: It's tough to get fired up for lengthy classes. Particularly when you have other stuff that needs to happen - both at work and personally.

The older I get, the more difficult it is to get fired up about spending hours, days, or weeks in a training class. Whether it is during business hours or not.... Whether I am teaching it or not...... Even whether it is something I am interested in or not. And I'm single with no kids. It takes tremendous force of will to commit yourself to extended education, show up every day, and do the work with little external coercion.

I've particularly noticed over the past 5 years - as corporations become progressively tighter with their staffing - there is more pressure to cut the time it takes to train employees. Training is seen as an intrusion - even if there is a long-term benefit. Even if it IS the right thing to provide your employees. Even if the training is good and provides immediate, positive ROI for the organization.


I have to keep these biases and issues in mind when I recommend training solutions and design materials. Especially since in some areas, I am the only one who seems to hold that bias (other people seem to LIKE competition during training).


Karyn Romeis said...

Confession: When it comes to sport, I'm a Type A. Irredeemably so. When that whistle blows or that starting gun goes off, there's no more Mrs Nice-guy. However, I don't view learning as a competition, and have no trouble with the notion of being a part-time, depending-on-the-circumstances type A.

Tonya said...

I agree completely. Where I work training is only attended if it mandatory. It's been my experience that people who only attend training when it's mandatory leave training with a bad taste in their mouths and never want to come back. The perception by some (if not most) is that training is a waste of time because it takes people out of the workplace and puts a strain on the rest of the workers to cover for that person. That's one reason I'm so excited about developing online classes. If for no other reason than allowing the "guys" to get the new hire training they need in a more time flexible manner, it will be worth it.