Student Well-Being

How the Golden State Warriors Can Help Explain Social-Emotional Learning

By Evie Blad — June 22, 2017 2 min read

A few years ago, after Stanford professor Carol Dweck spoke at Education Week‘s Leaders to Learn From Event, attendees swarmed around her, eager to discuss her ideas about learning and student motivation. It can be exciting to have an idea like growth mindsets explained so clearly and in such an applicable way, and that has made Dweck kind of a rock star to some teachers.

But while professional educators were eager to pick the brain of a respected academic, I suspect young students would get more enthused by people they already spend a lot of time talking about, like, well, actual rock stars. Or professional athletes.

Good news. NBA champions the Golden State Warriors are not only heroic athletes to many kids, they are also great examples of the character traits students need to succeed in the classroom and in life, according to a blog post published by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley.

“Indeed, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr has deliberately shaped the Warriors’ team culture around four core values: joy, mindfulness, compassion, and competition,” writes Greater Good Editor Jason Marsh. Marsh unpacks the research behind the team’s approach.

Mindfulness, a deliberate focus on the present moment, helps Warriors stay focused during high-stakes games, he writes. As my colleague Sarah Sparks wrote recently, some schools are also using mindfulness strategies to help students overcome anxiety, particularly over testing.

The Warriors are also known for their “strength in numbers” approach. And there’s science behind that cooperation and empathy, the post says. People have an instinct to cooperate, Marsh writes, and “research suggests that people experience greater pleasure after succeeding as part of a team than they do on their own. That might be at least partly because, in certain situations, seeing other people smile seems to activate the same brain regions as when you smile yourself, flooding you with happy feelings.”

Of course, the Warriors might not be the best example for students in Cleveland. But they do offer a concrete example of why emotions and relationships matter.

What other examples might teachers turn to? Grit researcher Angela Duckworth likes to cite this Will Smith interview about perseverance. In the past, I’ve turned to celebrity commencement speeches for examples. Where have you seen these concepts in the real world?

Photo: Golden State Warriors players, coaches and owners hold up the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy after Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., June 12. Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.