Grazing, even for a moment, on the outskirts of great coaching

Leonard Cohen’s Preface to the Chinese translation of his collection of Beautiful Losers poems includes this passage:

When I was young, my friends and I read and admired the old Chinese poets. Our ideas of love and friendship, of wine and distance, of poetry itself, were much affected by those ancient songs. … So you can understand, Dear Reader, how privileged I feel to be able to graze, even for a moment, and with such meager credentials, on the outskirts of your tradition.

His thoughts sprang to mind this week when I had an opportunity to meet two coaches (a head coach and an assistant coach). I did feel immensely privileged to spend time with them. I had been following the coaching career of the head coach for over a decade. The assistant coach has been involved in my critical friend project for five years.

When we met I had one question: “How have you turned around the energy in the team?”. What they shared, in confidence, fascinated me. When I watched the team perform, I saw at first hand the outstanding performances of understanding they had co-produced with the two coaches.

I was in awe of the privileged access I had to their coaching on the outskirts of their everyday practice … grazing.

Photo Credit

At the game (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Outside (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Coincidence, Serendipity and Synchronicity

An item on Radio National’s Book Program introduced me to Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz’s Australian Encounters. It is a “little book of literary trivia about chance meetings, and some influential ones too, between writers, politicians, artists, singers and activists.”

Subjects in the book include Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Donald Bradman and Boris Karloff, Margaret Fulton and Elizabeth David, Michael Hutchence and Kylie Minogue, Nana Mouskouri and Frank Hardy, Martina Navratilova, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Brian Burke, Henry Kissinger, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Menzies, Helena Rubinstein, and many more according to news of the book’s publication.

I had not seen Shane and Chris’s Encounters when they appeared in The Monthly. Shane notes that:

As the title suggests, these are snapshots depicting a connection, relationship or meeting between famous or notorious Australians or, occasionally, an Australian and a famous foreigner. However unlikely they sometimes appear, all are real – and as accurate as I can make them, based on historical documents or interviews with the people concerned.

This is an example … Bob Hawke and Frank Sinatra.

As I listened to the interview I thought of the words we use about meeting important people in our lives … coincidence, chance, synchronicity, serendipity, happenchance, fortune, fate, destiny. I remembered too discussions long ago about the role serendipity plays in qualitative field research and the classical example of Robert and Helen Lynd’s Middletown studies.

More recently Allen Foster and Nigel Ford (2003) have observed that serendipity is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident.” It first appeared in a letter Horace Walpole sent to Sir Horace Mann on 28 January 1754.  They note that “Serendipity has been considered in the literature to form an integral part of the creative process in the arts and humanities, social sciences and the sciences. In each, however, the experience of serendipity may be different.”

I like Seth Baker’s approach to Happenchance:

Happenchance is for anyone who wants to do things better: creative people, adventurers, travelers, wanderers, and dreamers. Anyone who won’t settle for the status quo, who wants to rise above mediocrity and conformity, and do something exciting, amazing, or engaging.

This site is for people with an open and relaxed attitude towards life.

  • People whose passion and interests take them in new and unexpected directions.
  • People who don’t mind trying new things.
  • People who aren’t afraid of failing.
  • People willing to embrace chance and serendipity.

I believe that by making our own luck, embracing chance, and working hard, we all have the opportunity to make our lives richer, more satisfying, and more fun.

If you have an opportunity to listen to the Book Show interview with Shane Maloney then your journey will start with a story of a chance meeting with a young poet, Leonard Cohen, on a Greek Island, the purchase of a blue raincoat and someone called Marianne. Perhaps the chance encounter with this post will lead you on your own reflections about meeting people who have helped to establish your identity.

Photo Credits

To meet by chance


Unexpected meeting


Forty Years On: Reflecting on Good Fortune

I saw of a copy of Alan Bennett‘s play Forty Years On (1968) in a second hand  bookshop this week.

By coincidence it is forty years ago this week that I went to the University of York to start my social sciences course. Ironically I should have been on my way to the University of Reading to study French and German!

Heslington Hall

Revision for my final year school exams in 1970 were distracted by the Football World Cup in Mexico. I am not sure whether it was the excitement generated by the World Cup or my lack of study skills that led to some final grades that prevented me from going to Reading. York kindly offered me a clearing house place.

Looking back I believe I was enormously fortunate to take up my place at York. My experiences there gave me a real desire to follow a polymath interest in society, culture and learning. Over the years I have maintained a fascination with language that may have been different had I studied it formally.

Later in my course at York I read Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden’s (1962) Education and the Working Class. Recently I looked back at a 1986 edition of the book and appreciated the subliminal impact of their approach on my thinking.

I went to University as the son of a steelworker and postwoman. I had no idea what University education was and was ill equipped to study with peers who had come from completely different backgrounds. As a ‘new’ university York was a rick mixture of people like myself and many who had come from the private education.

I went to York two years after events of May in Paris,  a year after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a few months after Brazil, with Pele in the team, defeated Italy to win the World Cup in the Aztec Stadium in Mexico City and shortly after Leonard Cohen’s appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was a time when anything was possible.

York nurtured this sense of the possible and enabled me to pursue a path that Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden championed. My first week there was spent in a pre-season training camp with the University’s rugby team. The group really welcomed me and may have been over-anticipating my ability. I had told them correctly that I was from Wales and played outside half. I think they were anticipating a Barry John!

Attendance at the training camp introduced me into the University and ever since I have been grateful that sport does offer distinct social inclusion possibilities. I could not have blogged about my experiences at the time. I would have needed thousands of these:

to program a third generation computer so that I might take advantage of “a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite” in the early 1990s!

Forty years on it is wonderful to reflect on good fortune. I am more convinced than ever that personal learning environments must celebrate biography and work with our ‘taken-for-grantedness’.

Photo Credits

1970s photographs of the University of York taken from the Alumni site.