Mark Tottman – Gareth Southgate: A True Warrior Learner

7th July 21

At Dunottar, pupils are encouraged to be ‘Warrior Learners’, demonstrating aspiration, creativity, curiosity, tenacity, independence, inclusivity and collaboration across all areas of school life: in lessons, co-curricular clubs and societies and sport. As we come together as a nation to watch the England team return to Wembley, the site of their last semi-final appearance in the men’s Euros 25 years ago, it is evident that Gareth Southgate epitomises what it means to be a Warrior Learner.

Missing the penalty at the Euro ’96 semi-final was a devasting low point in Gareth Southgate’s career. He felt that he had let everyone down – himself, his teammates and the nation. Failing under pressure in the spotlight became an important learning experience. He turned the lessons he learned from that setback into positives. It encouraged him to become more resilient and braver. Surviving the worst footballing experience ultimately enabled him to become the manager he is today.

When Southgate was initially offered the opportunity to manage England’s senior squad in 2016 he turned it down. After his experience at Euro ’96 and being sacked by Middlesbrough Football Club, he was fearful of failing in public again. However, he found the courage to step up and accept the appointment. He knew that he could fail but by focusing on what he could control and remaining true to himself, he also learned that anything is possible – he just needed to rise to the challenge.

Like Southgate’s England team, kindness and respect is at the heart of everything we do. The school’s empathy and compassion is the bond that make us stronger. We treat others as we would like to be treated and look out for each other and the impact we can have on our wider community. This creates a warm and positive environment where pupils feel like they belong, are valued and can be the best versions of themselves.

Inclusivity is vital to Southgate. He encourages all his players to get to know everyone in the team, believing that the best teams thrive on difference, with everyone bringing their own qualities, personalities and perspectives. Through their tutor groups, Houses and Families, pupils build connections, learn to collaborate, communicate and create new relationships with pupils in all year groups. They can look to the school’s captains for leadership but they are also encouraged to discover their self-belief and find their inner leader. Like Southgate’s England team – it is not just the players on the pitch who play an essential role in the team’s success. At Dunottar, everyone plays an important role, from the Estates Team to the Canteen Staff. We all share the same goal.

As with the England team, Dunottar pupils are supported to perform to the best of their abilities. Southgate firmly believes that working with controllables helps players to manage their thoughts under pressure and bring a sense of calm and focus. While the England team concentrate on their controllables – training and a disciplined routine of sleep, diet and recovery, Dunottar pupils are encouraged to remain focused on what they can control and how they can influence those outcomes academically, on the sports field and in co-curricular activities. They feel secure in asking for guidance and advice from our teaching staff, who are passionate about helping pupils realise their full potential. It takes courage to show up when you cannot predict, or control the outcome. Every professional footballer has faced setbacks. When we see the England team playing, it is the result of hard work, sacrifice and rejection. When pupils leave Dunottar, moving on to university, apprenticeships and careers, the impact of the strategies and tools that Dunottar has provided to build resilience and confidence will last a life time. Pupils will be wiser, stronger, they will dare to try and have the courage to make the most of their futures.

Like Southgate’s post match reviews, our aim is to encourage pupils to take pride in what they do well and provide the motivation to work out how they can continue to improve. Pupils learn from experience and with a positive attitude, use this to focus on what they want to achieve next. At Dunottar, you never face a challenge alone. With encouragement, patience, guidance, inspiration and trust, our teachers support pupils to be determined, flexible and creative, equipping them with the skills to better understand themselves and their place in the world.

During the 2018 World Cup campaign in Russia, Southgate was conscious of the mental stress for the team as it carried the hopes and dreams of a nation. Water is great for easing tired muscles and

reducing soreness and Southgate saw an opportunity to inject an element of fun. He knew that releasing the pressure, laughing and enjoyment can play a fundamental role in any challenge. Pupils at Dunottar work hard but we also create a space for them to have fun, building memories and make friendships that last a lifetime. It is these moments of happiness that the whole Dunottar community collectively comes together as one, with a clear sense of our identity and values.

As we wish the England team luck, remember, with a positive attitude you can always raise your game and deliver on your potential – the possibilities are endless.

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