We are Marshall

One again, I found myself watching a “sports-inspired” movie and ending up finding inspiration for the world of education.


We are Marshall depicts the story of the 1970 plane crash which claimed 75 lives, including the majority  of the Marshall University football team, their coaching staff and boosters.  Following the crash, a new coach, Jack Lengyel, portrayed by Matthew McCongaughey rebuilds not only the team but the small town of Huntington.

Rebuilding a team from scratch was no small feat.  The first obstacle was to petition the NCAA to allow freshmen to play. When phone calls and letters were not working, Coach Lengyel asked the College president two poignant questions. “Did you propose to your wife over the phone?” and “Did she answer you in a letter?”

I started to reflect on the pros and cons of electronic communication. Within our world of education, emails fly back and forth throughout the day, our fingers fly over our smartphones as we send text messages and we have crafted our tweets down to 140 characters in order to send our messages out to the world.

At times we all need the reminder that the most important communication needs to happen face to face. Efficient does not always equate to Effective.

face to faceThe second obstacle involved learning and perfecting a new play that the Marshall team of freshman players could execute with precision.  On the theory that “it doesn’t hurt to ask”, the coaching team asked the West Virginia team coach, Bobby Bowden, if they could study their “V” play, knowing that the teams would not compete against each other this season. In the competitive world of college football, it would have been common practice to deny such a request.  But that didn’t happen.  The Marshall team was allowed to study the play until they had had it perfected.  By sharing their knowledge, the Virginia team not only positioned themselves as a class act, but they helped to strengthen the league.

In education, we all become better and more effective when we share our best practices, best assessment strategies, best resources and latest evolution of an idea. All too often we still become territorial about the work that we are doing in our classrooms. Collaborative networking creates the conditions for us to share and learn together. We just need to embrace networks (both formal and informal) and look upon them as a natural way to “do business”

That level of sharing needs to be replicated from school to school, from department to department and ultimately from school board to school board, if as a province we want to see improvement on a large scale.


We are Marshall reinforced a couple of key components for educational improvement ~ Know when to have that face to face conversation and intentionally share.

What is another sports-inspired movie that inspires the educator in you?

Come write with me…….

4 thoughts on “We are Marshall

  1. Remember the Titans…. Bend it Like Beckham

    I love the message and the stories that sports can highlight about social justice issues.

  2. I couldn’t agree more: “Collaborative networking creates the conditions for us to share and learn together. We just need to embrace networks (both formal and informal) and look upon them as a natural way to “do business”. To move forward, we need leaders who can model and demonstrate firsthand what it means to “do business” in both the traditional manner, and through social media. Fewer things give me greater pleasure than sharing what my students are up to in the classroom.

  3. Great post Sue! There are so many great sports movies that have inspirational messages. They appeal to me because I love sports and consider myself an athlete.

    The one thing that sports and in particular coaches can give to the world of teaching is feedback. Effective coaches are masters at providing immediate feedback with the purpose of developing the skills of an athlete. They use video, whiteboards, physical movement and verbal instructions to help athletes improve. In short they use every tool in their feedback toolbox to help their players. And it doesn’t stop with the skill side, they also help support their athletes with the mental side of the sport as well.

  4. I love sports movies, so many lessons that can be learned from them. Thank you for sharing your reflections about communicating face to face, there is such value in a conversation that takes place between two people or a group of people.

    I have always been inspired by the movie Rudy both as a stidents struggling to reach my goals of being an educator and as a teacher/leader, motivating everyone to keep trying and to never give up on your dreams. Rudy was a football player who always wanted to play for Notre Dame, not only was he small but his academics were a struggle as well. Through years of hard work and perseverance Rudy accomplished his goal.

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