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Better Than My Best

Restart and achieve

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to consider strategies to enhance our performance during the new academic year.

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: you may wish to familiarize yourself with the results and performances in the first few matches of the Premier League football season.


  1. Welcome back to a new academic year! As I personally look forward - through autumn and past Christmas and Easter - into next summer, I must admit that I do so with a sense of hope and anticipation tinged with some nervousness and maybe even a little apprehension. I don’t know whats going to happen, either to me or within our school community. I suspect that many of you will identify with that set of feelings.

  2. Today, Id like us to consider some strategies that we might adopt to ensure that, next July, we can look back at the school year that has passed with a sense of some satisfaction. So, lets take a look at another group of people whove just embarked on a similar venture: Manchester City football club.

    (You may want to make some remark about your personal choice of football team!)

  3. In May, Manchester Citys mens team completed an unprecedented treble in winning the League Cup, the Premier League title and the FA Cup in one season. Whoever you support personally, this must be recognized as an amazing achievement. To make matters even more amazing, Manchester Citys womens team completed its FA Cup and League Cup double.

    So, how do you think those players are feeling now, at the start of a new season?

    You may wish to listen to a range of responses.

  4. The challenge for Manchester City’s teams this season is huge. Manchester City’s mens team has achieved everything, so how can it improve? Anything less than a similar result in the new season will be a disappointment to players, management, fans and pundits. What strategies will enable the team to achieve again the level that it achieved last season?

  5. I believe that there are three ways in which Manchester City’s mens team has tried to improve.

    - First, new players have joined the team. (You may be able to include some names here.) Some have joined to replace players who have been deemed below the standard that the club requires or those who have retired, such as Vincent Kompany, last seasons club captain. Others have joined because they are exceptional players whose skill will add to the team. There are also some younger players who appear to have potential, which will be realized as the season develops.
    - Second, Pep Guardiola, the manager, will have devised a new set of tactics to baffle opponents. Last seasons tactics worked well, but other clubs have worked out ways to limit some of their effectiveness. Pep will have introduced new, surprise elements to the way in which the team operates.
    - Third, the players will have trained and trained and trained to be at a level of fitness that exceeds even what they achieved last season. They will be stronger, faster and more flexible. Young players will have developed physically. All will have been on specialized diets. Sports psychologists will have instilled a winning mentality. Rest and relaxation will have become as important as activity. Nothing will be left to chance.

    Whether this will all be effective, well have to wait and see. (Some comment on City’s performance in the first few matches of the season may be appropriate.)

Time for reflection

So, what might we learn from Manchester Citys strategies? How might this help us as we set out on a new school year?

I think that the teams strategies can be summed up in three phrases.

- Try something new.
- Try a new way to do familiar things.
- Get fighting fit.

First, to try something new, why not take up some totally new activity this year? It could be a different subject, such as a further language. It could be joining a new club or trying out a new sport. It could be taking on a new project. Doing something that weve never done before may reveal talents that we never dreamed we possessed or open up a part of our brain that was underused.

Second, to try a new way to do familiar things, we could try varying where we do our homework or sitting in a different part of the classroom. We may find it beneficial to be away from the TV or our phone so that there are no distractions. On the other hand, we may find that music stimulates us in what were doing. Why not work in a team to do certain tasks? Why not spend time in silence simply thinking a task through before starting it? We could do a bit of lateral thinking and come up with our own ideas.

Third, to get fighting fit, we need to understand that the state of our bodies and brain are vital in achieving top performance. Adequate sleep matters. So does regular exercise. Our body needs the right balance of food to function properly and fight off illness. Our brain craves plenty of water. Theres nothing new here, but its important to ask ourselves regularly whether were living this way. Many of us have regular lapses from good habits.

So, lets look forward again. What do we hope for? For some, its to keep our status as a high achiever. For others, its to show a measure of improvement. For those who regard themselves as less successful, we may hope to achieve just one or two successes.

The strategies that weve discussed can work for all of us. And that includes me!

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the freedom to be flexible in our approach to learning and living.
Remind us of this whenever we feel stale, disappointed or like were underachieving.
Encourage us to take action.
Encourage us to try new things and new ways of doing familiar things, and to take time to be healthy.


‘Things can only get better’ by D:Ream, available at: (4.18 minutes long)

Publication date: September 2019   (Vol.21 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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