Study Skills: Lessons From a Football Quarterback

This time of year, my blood runs green and gold for the Green Bay Packers. My father grew up in Wisconsin during the Vince Lombardi era. I grew up in Detroit where people only complain about the Lions. I don’t think it was ever a decision…I was born a Cheesehead.

Last night, I watched the Packers “new” quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, in his starting debut. The drama was high…it was not only the first game of the season, but the first Monday Night Football game of the season.

The Packers were playing their bitter rivals, the Vikings, at home in historic Lambeau Field with more than 80,000 fans to cheer him on. It was the first game in 15 years that Brett Favre has NOT started for the Packers. A new day was dawning for the Packers and, while I still admire Favre, I was personally rooting for Rodgers with all of the pressure he was under.

Late in the first quarter, the Packers were literally a half yard away from getting on the scoreboard with a touchdown. It was 4th down, Rodgers had the ball and defenders were coming at him quick. He was standing as still as a statue. I could hardly bear to watch.

“Throw the ball! Throw the ball!” I screamed. At the last second, he threw the ball, the pass was complete…TOUCHDOWN GREEN BAY!

It was a great play and I was thrilled for Rodgers, the Packers, the 80,000 fans, and my dad!

Later, during half-time, the commentators explained the exceptional skill behind Rodgers’ play. A skill, they say, he learned from the legendary Favre. Rodgers kept his helmet straight ahead towards the end-zone, completely perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, and used his peripheral vision to scan the field.

This approach kept the defenders in the lurch…they could not anticipate if he was going to go left or go right, which gave Rodgers a big advantage.

This tactic explains why Rodgers appeared to be as still as a statue; why the anticipation of that play was almost more than I could stand. To the untrained eye, it did not look like he was doing anything; like he was just standing there and, at the last second, threw a “lucky” pass. Instead, it was a brilliant play. It was all about strategy!

Strategy is a tricky thing…you don’t always know when someone is being strategic; the process of using strategies often remain invisible to the untrained person, but they generate remarkable advantages. Strategy has its place in many different circumstances: in sports, on the battlefield, in the business world, and even in school.

Most students are surprised to learn that there are strategies that can make homework and studying easier, more effective, and even more enjoyable.

In the game of “school-work,” time is often your opponent. Homework and studying can take hours, which make the tasks so dreadful.

With a little bit of strategy, however, you can cut your time dramatically.

For example, imagine you will be studying a specific science unit for the next three weeks in school, with an important test at the end of the unit. How long would you expect to study for that test to get an “A”? Three, four, six…ten hours?

Would you believe 90 minutes?

It’s true…if you study *strategically.* Your brain remembers information best if learned in small chunks. So, if you review your notes and textbook every day for three minutes, your brain will absorb the information better than if you wait until the night or two before a test to begin studying.

Three minutes a day times 15 class days is a total of 45 minutes.

Three nights before the test, review all of your notes and the textbook for 15 minutes. Continue again two nights before, and then again, the night before the test…and you will have spent only 90 minutes preparing for that test.

You don’t believe me, do you?

Try it for yourself. When we use our brain strategically, it is capable of doing so much more than you can imagine. For some reason, however, we are all trained to believe that learning has to take hours and a lot of work. That’s just not true.

Anyone can benefit from Learning & Soft Skills; “Straight A” students often earn their grades by pouring over their homework for hours and sacrificing free time. They don’t have to.

Struggling students struggle because they do not have a strategy. They are often overwhelmed (and bored) by all of the lectures, textbooks, and new information; they have no idea how to process all of it effectively.

Some students can only cope by tuning things out. Others put in some effort, but are quickly discouraged. Strategies, however, can transform this overwhelming experience into a simple process and open a whole new world.

The key to Aaron Rodger’s great football play was not how fast he ran or how hard he could throw the ball…it was how smart he played the game. When it comes to school-work, you CAN work smarter, not harder.

-Susan Kruger


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