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Up for the cup: Sorting out their priorities

To encourage pupils to consider what is important to them, regardless of the decisions of those around them (SEAL theme: Motivation).

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage pupils to consider what is important to them, regardless of the decisions of those around them (SEAL theme: Motivation).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.


  1. Leader On 11 May it will be the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

    Give brief details of the two teams that are competing for the trophy.

    It’s always been a competition that gives rise to surprising results. The underdog has overcome the mighty on numerous occasions. This season the performances of Conference sides Luton Town and Macclesfield Town in the middle rounds of the Cup have been particularly astonishing.

    There may be a more current example of the underdog’s achievement from the teams who have reached the Final that you could use instead of this one.

    Actually, it does seem that the number of upsets has increased this century. Some of the less likely contenders at the semi-final stage since the year 2000 have been Wycombe Wanderers, Sheffield United, Southampton, Millwall (twice), Cardiff and Barnsley. I don’t want to belittle these teams but their squads have never been up to the quality of the top Premiership clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. It would appear logical for such top teams to dominate the later stages of the FA Cup. Why isn’t it necessarily so?

    Reader 1 For the top teams, the FA Cup is no longer the most important trophy to win. The Premiership and the Champions’ League are far more prestigious.

    Reader 2 Yet for the lower teams it’s their one chance to get to play at Wembley.

    Reader 1 For the top teams, the big money lies in Europe and TV money from the Premiership. In the end, the money is what really matters.

    Reader 2 For the teams lower down in the rankings, the opportunity of a single money-making fixture against a top team can turn a loss for the season into a profit.

    Reader 1 Even if you win the FA Cup, it only gives you entry to the Europa League. It’s obviously a second-class trophy.

    Reader 2 European football! Chance would be a fine thing.

    Reader 1 For the top teams, the FA Cup is only useful because it gives the opportunity to put some young players into the side, to give them the experience.

    Reader 2 For those teams not at the top, it gives them the motivation to overcome what may be a weakened team.
  2. Leader So, it seems that it’s a question of priorities. If the FA Cup offers something that is worth playing for, then it’s given a high priority. Lower-division teams therefore dream of and work towards being given the chance to pit their skills against the top teams, just once. For the top teams, however, the FA Cup can simply seem like just another match in an already crammed fixture list. In fact, recently, Manchester United was given permission by the FA to miss the competition entirely for one season on such grounds. It’s all a question of priorities.

Time for reflection

Leader What are your priorities just now? For some, the bar will be set very high. It may be to do with achieving a high grade in a music exam, a dancing audition, a GCSE exam or to be picked for a county team. Choices about how time is spent – socialising, resting, training, studying – will be governed by the benefit of it in relation to your main priority. For others, priorities may appear more mundane – to get a piece of homework in on time, to master three chords on the guitar, to rebuild a relationship after an argument, to get on to the subs bench for the school team. Such seemingly high priorities, even though they appear to be aimed at achieving a higher standard, are actually no more important at an individual level than the other, seemingly mundane priorities. Each one, whatever it is, represents the possibility of an achievement for the individual concerned and they probably all require just as much from you in terms of making commitments of time, persistence and energy.

How can we make our different priorities sit comfortably alongside each other? First, I believe we could show an equal interest in one another’s priorities. We could ask one another every day how things are going. Second, I believe we could celebrate every achievement equally, certainly on a private level. ‘Well done’ takes very little time to say yet can be enormously effective in boosting someone’s self-image. Finally, if we involve ourselves in helping others work towards achieving their priorities, whether these are high or low, we make everything into a team effort and the resulting positive outcomes belong to us all.

Who’s going to win the Cup? I’ve no idea, but, favourite or underdog, I hope the experience is satisfying for all who take part.


Dear Lord,
thank you for all the targets we have to aim for and priorities to decide.
Thank you for friends who work alongside us to achieve them.
May we be ready to engage in the total endeavour.


‘Lean on me’ by Bill Withers

Publication date: May 2013   (Vol.15 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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