One of my favorite books is Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon, who also wrote Steal Like an Artist (a great short read as well). In it he discusses Toronto Blue Jay’s pitcher R.A. Dickey, a knuckleball pitcher. The thing about knuckleballers is that there have only been a few successful ones throughout baseball history. It’s such a difficult pitch to master, hit and catch that the teams with that pitcher often have a special catcher for him.
So in that book, as well as the documentary “Knuckleball” on Netflix, some themes played out. The biggest one I saw, and that Kleon pointed out in his book is that although most pitchers are secretive of the “how-to’s” of their pitches, knuckleballers work together and share their secrets with each other. In fact, a good portion of the movie showed Dickey meeting and talking shop with fellow knuckleball greats Tim Wakefield (who retired a few years ago), and the Niekro brothers, who were legendary pitchers when I was growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s, along with Charlie Hough, another fraternity member from the 80’s and early 90’s. It’s such a rare pitch that in 2014, Dickey was the only knuckleballer in the major leagues! This brotherhood is so tight that they teach their craft so that their legacy doesn’t fade out entirely. Wakefield said in his retirement speech that R.A. Dickey now has to carry the torch for their art.
What does this mean for our PE community? I have to admit that when I first started teaching PE 5 years ago, I didn’t really share my ideas with anyone. The reason? I wasn’t connected to any social media outlet and I didn’t know the other teachers in my county. Then, when I first started using Twitter and then Voxer for professional development, I was more of a lurker because I wanted to see what other educators were doing. I was nervous that my ideas weren’t like theirs, and therefore didn’t have value. What I eventually realized was that our PE community is made up of “knuckleballers” that are willing to share and help their fellow professionals, even from across the globe! Within moments, a tweet or a “vox” can formulate ideas and answers from any country in the world. This made me more comfortable to share my work online without fear of being ridiculed, and also connected me with amazing educators from all over. How great is it that a teacher from Ft. Myers, FL (me) can speak to an awesome and intelligent innovator from Australia (Jarrod Robinson @mrrobo) and have an answer to my question in seconds?! And through Voxer, collaborating with Jorge Rodriguez (@physednow)from Texas, he helped me change and refine a game we now play called “Hunger Games”. It started off as a small idea for a game, but talking back and forth with him, and getting feedback so quickly, it became a brand new game. That is the power of sharing and helping each other!
What about the people who charge money for lesson ideas? I’m not very fond of this practice. Ideas need to be shared, tweaked, and built upon. If we want to grow as a PE community, we have to be willing to give ideas freely and neither hide them nor sell them. My exceptions to this are when educators build apps or programs, or if they write a book. The reason for this is that the time and resources put into creating these are much greater than someone who has a lesson idea. I understand the compensation for this, and I don’t mind paying something for the content.
So the big question is this: are you in or out? Are you a “knuckleballer” who is eager to grow our craft or do you want to hide your talent from the world? Everyone has something unique and creative to share. Be a part of our community and help us take it to a new level!