I’ve been writing this blog for 21 months now. 61 posts. This is the stellar start to number 62!
I wasn’t actually setting out to count, because I knew I wasn’t at a significant, take-stock moment in my writing, although at some point I should probably be brave enough to use the word “blogger” instead of telling someone that “I write a blog.” But that’s a whole other issue lol.
I was looking back, because I occasionally find myself with an idea and then wonder if I’ve already written about it.
Case in point: sisu.
And yes, I had.
But it’s a good time to bring it up again, because I don’t often see sisu in action. Actually, it’s not so much something that you can literally see. It’s something to be felt.
Here’s what I wrote before:
The Finns have a word called sisu. It’s often loosely defined as persistence…pushing through adversity or never ever giving up. I’ve heard it described as the Finns fighting and losing a dozen wars to Russia, but never surrendering. That’s the way I have always understood sisu, as a physical, mental, and spiritual toughness, but as I’ve done more reading about it, I’m understanding that it is more than that. I find that Emilia Lahti explains it best: "Sisu denotes extraordinary determination, courage and resoluteness in the face of extreme adversity. It relates to an action mindset that enables individuals to take action against very slim odds and reach beyond the observed limitations of their present moment. Sisu begins where grit and perseverance end. As a construct, it is an integral part of the Finnish culture but it is also a universal capacity of humans all across the word.”
I was thinking about sisu at (of all places) junior boys volleyball playoffs yesterday. I gave our staff the long play-by-play version, but here’s the Cole’s notes version.
To me, that’s sisu. And the boys felt it.
All day long they talked about how proud they were of just getting to the final day. How proud they were to beat Osler. And VCA. And to make semis. And then the finals. And when we lost, they kept that same attitude. They were devastated, absolutely, tears welled. But the smiles came back out for pictures and they talked about being proud to be second in the league and looking forward to next year.
There are so many amazing lessons our students learn through sports. And so many that we, as adults, learn from the kids in the process.
I love that we can stand on the sidelines and coach in real-time. When a mistake is made, or a miscommunication happens, it is instantly a teachable moment. And then because another serve happens, we get to try it again. We get to build connections outside of the classroom, and like yesterday, when a kid accidentally calls you ‘mom’ it’s a compliment to that relationship. We also spend a lot of time reflecting: in timeouts, in between sets, after a game. What's working and what isn't?
Besides skills, we had to work a lot on teamwork concepts this fall. We knew how to be good losers from last year’s season…we lost a lot…but had to learn to be gracious winners when we found success this year. That wasn’t easy. We also learned some hard lessons about respect: for people’s property and people’s dignity. At one point in the season when we were on a win streak, I said to them: “How we do here today isn’t in question; how people go home and talk about our team definitely is.” When the last player out of the classroom yesterday asked me for a broom to sweep the room before we left, I realized that some of those lessons might have stuck.
Last night as we waited for other matches to wrap up, one of the boys commented on being worried about the final game. “I’m nervous, but it’s an excited nervous!” Which lead to a big conversation about, of all things, the importance of a positive attitude and growth mindset. After that surprising bit of philosophy, the boys had a conversation about whether just the winners get medals, or if the second place team gets anything, and someone even went to find out the answer from the Colonsay host. (We got a plaque lol.) They also decided that we weren’t underdogs like last year, but more like “mediocre-dogs.” Haha. And just before he got up to go start warming up, one of the other boys added, “No matter what happens, I’m just really proud of what we’ve done.”
Me too, kids. Me too.
“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” Jim Watkins
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