Most College Athletes Are Failures — Learning From March Madness

Source: NCAA

Cheer for the stumbles
The he-shoulda-had-thats
And the tears that linger

For in those moments
Greatness lies

There you will find 
The provoked
The determined
The unified

It’s in those moments 
That champions are born

Most NCAA athletes are failures. They don't win the championship. They don't enter the pros. They don't take home a trophy at the end of the season. Only a handful of elite programs reap the acclaim and hardware that accompanies major spectacles like the men's NCAA basketball tournament. Most Division I, II, and III competitors are well-rounded college students giving a tremendous amount of effort for the love of their sport and their college.

Just watching one game of the March Madness media blitz is enough to make even a non-fan sympathetic to the kids with their heads hung low after a devastating loss. Anyone in an office pool knows that their bracket will be busted after the first weekend. There are no trophies for participation.

Yet these are the moments that turn kids into adults, that enforce life lessons of diligence and duty, grit and grace. That's why the March Madness tournament offers a great chance to talk to students about failure, about perseverance, and about process over product.

Ad agency Leo Burnett produced an award-winning TV spot for the NCAA last year called "Cheer." Since then, its aired over 850 times, and it's in heavy rotation again this week. It's easy to see why.

The ad is a brief masterpiece of narration and language to encourage everyone — athletes, kids, and adults — to relish the stumbles of life and the tears of as-yet-unmet goals. As the transcript reads, these moments turn disappointed players into "the provoked, the determined, the unified."

Source: NCAA
Teachers talk a lot about failure with their students, about the unreachable expectation of perfection and the inescapable necessity of hard work. This ad is a perfect companion for homeroom discussions, circle time, advisory conferences, or recess pick-me-ups.

For more ideas about teaching with the NCAA tournament, check out: "March Madness In The Classroom — Teaching With Tournament Graphics."