Keep your eye on the ball

When the Met Office forecasts the weather, its Cray XC40 supercomputer looks out of the window and draws down billions of similar data points from previous weather patterns to predict the most likely sequence of events over the next day, week or month. The more data it has, the more accurate its predictions.

down angle photography of red clouds and blue sky

When a frisbee flies through the air, its path is guided by a combination of influences that someone catching a frisbee for the first time will not have seen before. The speed, spin, tilt, air pressure and wind patterns all combine to ensure that while an expert catcher will predict its path, he won’t always be correct but the number of previous experiences he has of similar flights will help with his judgement.

In education, this means that familiarity with a concept or fact will improve our understanding of it. Not that we catch the same frisbee, thrown the same way, in still air a thousand times, but that each nuance and variation of flight which emerges over a thousand experiences is noted and stored, so that we can confidently catch the next one. We study today so that tomorrow is better.

As Tom Rees and Matthew Evans have explained well, leadership is the same. We might be experts in the field but we cannot truly lead that field until we have led that field. An event needs a decision, and we might make the best decision we can at the time, but further experience of similar events will help us make a better, or at least more informed, decision next time.

So when a football coach tells a player to keep their eye on the ball, or a cricketer “watches the ball to the bat” it’s not to improve today’s shot, but each and every shot that comes after.



Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

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