Finishing Kick

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The story of Mo Farah's journey to be an Olympic champion is truly inspirational.

Mo Farah was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. At a very young age, he moved with his brother and mother to Djibouti to escape the civil war in Somalia. Shortly after at the tender age of eight, he moved to Britain to join his London-born father.

Farah's schooling in London was difficult. He spoke little English. He was one of the few black faces at his school. He struggled academically because of the language barrier. And he desperately wanted to fit in with his peers.

Alan Watkinson, a Physical Education teacher, noticed Farah's athletic potential and thought that running could be a creative and emotional outlet for his academic and emotional struggles at school. Farah's well-being became a personal project for Watkinson.

After several years of focused training Farah won the European Junior 5000m title in 2001. He then progressed into the senior ranks representing Britain at European and World Championships. This followed with Farah's selection to compete in the 5,000 metres at the 2008 Beijing games.

While elated at becoming an Olympian, Beijing was also a bitter disappointment for Farah as he was eliminated in the first round heats. Farah knew that he had not reached his potential and he began searching for the difference that was needed to become an Olympic champion.

In early 2011, less than 18 months before the London games, Farah approached Alberto Salazar, a Cuban-born American coach. Salazar, a former world class marathon runner, set out to identify the strengths and weaknesses in Farah's previous performances. After assessing a great deal of data, he concluded that Farah didn't have one ingredient - the tactics and strength to execute a finishing kick to win in the last 100 metres of an Olympic final. So Salazar set about educating Farah about the right time to kick. At the same time, he added 7 hours of gym work every fortnight to Farah's training program of 110 miles per week.

The rest of the story is history!

Mo Farah won the 5,000 and 10,000 metres in London and is now one of the greatest distance runners the world has seen.

While most of us will never come anywhere near Olympic glory, it is the lessons in Mo Farah's story that we can take away to inspire our students.

Mo Farah's success would not have been possible without a teacher at school who changed the course of his life and an astute coach with an eye for detail. Alan Watkinson and Alberto Salazar helped Farah to see where differences could be made.

As teachers we all have the task of helping our students see where a difference can be made. Sometimes the difference can even be life-changing. But, more often than not, the difference is the simple daily advice we give our students.

As the Year 12 exam season looms, there are many students asking their teachers to help them find where differences can be made. Many Year 12 teachers in NSW and Victoria are currently using studyON to help their students find the difference. Teachers are using the monitoring and results tools in studyON to help students diagnose their strengths and weaknesses in exam practice.

Year 12 students are embarking on the last part of their school journey. Like Mo Farah, they are asking for your help with their finishing kick.

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by jraiti