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Steph Curry and divergent thinking. The harmony of opposites.

Let’s take Stephen Curry, extraordinary basketball champion in the NBA (National Basketball Association). Steph can be savoured and enjoyed every evening by spectators in the Oracle Arena stadium of the Golden State Warriors (NBA). A marvel to behold, pure harmony in his movements, sublime athletic action. This is basketball, the best basketball played today. It is entertainment, pure entertainment.We tend to look down on the adjective “entertaining”; over here on the other side of the pond (paraphrasing Guido Bagatta), on this side of the ocean, we don’t really trust the term, as if entertaining is little more than diverting. Steph Curry is the exception, the greatest exception of them all. Sport itself is an exception: it helps us understand talent (and how to nurture it), motivationand the nature of sacrifice, specifically that so-desired dynamic and flexible sacrifice. Sport is pedagogy in action, the heights of expression, the complete and concrete exemplification of the various learning processes. It is modesty, the aim is to better oneself not to be the best (to become the player that already exists within); it is healthy competition where each player recognises her/his own potential, lives and breathes it on the field, feels it and strives to achieve it. It is linked to love, to passion. It is sweat. The satisfaction of wringing out the T-shirt on the way back to the changing room, switching on the shower while leaning against the wall and enjoying the hot water. Victory and defeat, joy and disappointment, and frustration.Team play, dealings with teammates. There are plenty of keywords.Let’s return to the word learning. When we talk of learning, we tend to think of IQ (Intelligence Quotient), we measure access to intelligence, the tools available, the proximal area of development. We notice the result of our efforts, we focus on our ability to respond to duty (there is a tendency to confuse responsibility with duty and meanwhile no one teaches us to be responsible for our own talents). In summary, when we talk of abilities and competences, we limit ourselves to the brain area.We disregard fun, motivation, passion and most of all movement of the muscles, joints and nerves (what happens in our body when the neurotransmitters are activated) – sport reminds us of all of this. We forget how learning occurs in every area of our life in every place and every moment.We forget how culture is everywhere (not limited to the arts and science).Back to Steph (do check out the videos) where the wonder lies in the harmony of opposites, in the reciprocity of the actions.Steph is the living definition of alternation between convergent thinking and divergent thinking, two cognitive processes, which struggle to get along side by side. To talk about him is interesting, to show him in action to students is very interesting, but to watch him in action is fantastic.  Steph knows the basics of the subject: how to throw, pass, stop, use the pivot foot, he knows it all well (he went to school!). He has worked on these abilities building his skills of dribbling, shooting on the move, when standing still, passing the ball while jumping, while running, orchestrating histeammates. It’s about knowing how to play, or better knowing how to be on the court, and he knows how to do this too. And yet to see him play is to be enchanted. Something takes place, and it’s not magic, which would be too easy. It’s something else and (having seen him) it raises a question: now what will he do?And once that question has been answered, another question, this time rhetorical: “what has he done?”!(this time paraphrasing Flavio Tranquillo).Steph manages to forget (or go beyond) mere abilities and skills and to be in the here and now, ball in hand. He manages to think and to carry out different actions at the same time and thus moves away from traditional procedural thinking, he reads the defence rapidly –immediately – and therefore does not make choices, but instead observes and acts, the distance between thought and action being infinitely small. To choose would take too long, he adapts (capable of adapting to the environment, to the context), goes out of the box applying problem-solving techniques, then diverges when least expected, he makes his “traditional” shot and receives his never traditional applause (it’s as if in aiming to always do the same simple move, divergent thinking and convergent thinking are complementary, equally useful).Allow me to clarify: when we ask our students to apply rules (formulas), to follow procedures, when we basically request solutions, they activate their knowledge, they search among “what we’ve learnt, what’s in our memory”, we’re giving them a direction, we’re asking them to do the right thing, to carry something out, using acquired abilities and skills. This is important, our society requires this ability, but we need to take into account how to diverge means to support freedom of thought, freedom of choice, how it means to facilitate unusual procedures, within a frame of responsibility.From this perspective, it’s the absence of judgement that builds responsibility and care for one’s own work (study).By responsibility we mean understanding what motivates one’s choices, knowing how to explain them, how to present them, knowing how to move within one’s own processes, learning to recognise them. In this mode the student does not have to express content, on the contrary, she/he has to unearth qualities, resources, has to “bring out” in the sense of the Latin “educere”(from which “education” derives). If we give a chance to a cooperative learning project, we could well be pleasantly surprised. When we ask them to measure themselves, they “activate processes”, “build pathways” and we don’t know what they will do; they can only try (using the tools of abilities and acquired skills), what they’re doing is seeking a direction. They measure themselves against (become familiar with) error, or rather, it is the error that brings about the assist (remaining in the realm of basketball), and thus we enter the realm of perfectibility, leaving aside perfection: the perfect action does not exist, we become authentic, that’s the reaction triggered by our learning process and to which someone might exclaim “but what has he done?”!Steph has changed basketball, before him a standard existed, a player who represented the “typical development” of basketball, physically fit, tall with a basketball intelligence supported by the physique, but he is now rewriting – or better, cancelling – the rules. He is completely in the hands of his own talent. Simplicity of execution, the movements are effortless, he doesn’t enter into conflict with the adversary, he flows like water, bypassing obstacles, filtering into the cracks.He dances, dances with the opponent, allowing himself to be led by defensive movements, which paradoxically are the very movements that would like to end the dance.Extraordinary, the opponent becomes a partner instrumental in the expression of his talent. A revolution! Conflict isn’t necessary to establish oneself, talent is enough.

In this regard, he delivers a new message, trust your own talent and your talent will be generous with you. Don’t try to be something you’re not, don’t listen to those who tell you you’re not OK just because your functioning is different (specific learning disorders). He has a new kind of intelligence towards which thought processes flow in the expression of his talents.His body reinforces his talent and together they come over crystal-like (as if ICFwere being told through sport), thousands of kids all over the world at this moment are on a basketball court thinking that there’s a place for them too.In search of a personal insertion point (coming back to the fundamental principle of ICF, inserting oneself along the ability–disability continuum). Obviously, the greatest basketball league in the world doesn’t have space for everyone, but everyone can seize the opportunity. Steph Curry and inclusivity. And true inclusivity is achieved in the absence of competition.Steph is immersed in his own talent, so the competition becomes healthy, improving.When authenticity, the true self, is encouraged, when one’s own interests are cultivated, the motivation to learn grows. Our inner self is touched, we learn for ourselves and not for anyone else.Steph has faith. Where there is faith anything can be achieved, or at least many things can.

When we are truly authentic we learn the value of compromise, the value of finding middle ground. We become flexible, we acquire the ability to accept what we cannot change about our society, our work, our teachers and, at the same time we are able to use our talent to propose new things.We know how to be among what we do know and to try the unknown. Effortlessly, likeSteph.

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