In 2000, I had the pleasure of listening to a speech by Ken Dryden, who had been goalkeeper for Cornell University when it was the NCAA Ice Hockey Champion in the 1960s. Ken Dryden then was a goalkeeper in the National Hockey League for eight years. Then president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’s a lawyer.
Ken Dryden said that the greatest lesson of sport is that most things go wrong; in fact, that they almost always go wrong. He said he’s seen dozens of coaches on hundreds of occasions diagram plays in the locker room where every defender is blocked just so and every pattern is executed perfectly.
But what you learn in competition, said Dryden, is that the plans almost always go awry, that the patterns almost always break down. What you learn in competition is to not get upset, but to improvise and find another way to get the puck in the goal or the ball in the net.
What happens to the high school student, asked Dryden, who doesn’t play sports in high school and who gets all A’s, a 4.3 grade point average on a 4 point scale, 100 percent on test scores all the time, who never has anything go wrong? What happens to that student in college when he or she gets 90 percent, or 80 percent, or worse. What happens to that student when something goes wrong in life?
Dryden concluded that sport is not frivolous, it’s another way to learn.