Learning on your own can be confusing and expensive. If you want to learn about a topic but don’t have the experience to judge the value of the resources available to you, you waste time and probably money discovering and evaluating what’s out there.
Peer-reviewed texts written by trained academics remove a lot of that doubt, but textbooks are notoriously expensive. In recent years, the academic community has pushed to develop books that can be downloaded for free and used without restriction. Two of my favorite sources for these textbooks are Rice University’s OpenStax project and the University of British Columbia’s Textbook Project, which is funded by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education.
OpenStax offers more than 80 textbooks at the high school and college level on topics including business, social sciences, humanities, chemistry, physics, and math in English and 11 texts in Spanish. The business segment includes books on ethics, law, entrepreneurship, finance, statistics, and intellectual property among other topics. Basically, you have the supporting texts for the core of a solid undergraduate business program available for free. The page for Introductory Business Statistics indicates the book is used in 307 classrooms and has saved students more than $7 million USD. That’s a substantial contribution to learning.
OpenStax is administered by a U.S. university, so it’s no surprise the texts are written from that perspective. Texts in the University of British Columbia’s Textbook Project are influenced by UBC’s position as a leading Canadian institution as well as the program’s slightly different mission. Where OpenStax focuses on college and, to a lesser extent, high school instruction, UBC’s Textbook Project extends its offerings to cover adult mathematical and English literacy as well as vocational topics such as barbering techniques for hairstylists, food safety, and math for the trades. Other books include coverage of Indigenous perspectives on business ethics and business law in British Columbia as well as Canadian history pre- and post-confederation.
The adult learning texts and programs would be of particular benefit to recent arrivals to the UK as well as Canada and other nations of the British Commonwealth that use British spelling conventions.
OpenStax and the Textbook Project provide significant benefit to academic and individual learners, but numerous other institutions and authors make resources available to the community. I’ll describe some of them in my next post.
The halfway point of any project gives you the chance to think back on what you’ve done, revel in your successes, and shake your head at the miscues that seem obvious in hindsight. As such, the winter holidays are always an interesting time to be part of a fall-to-spring sports league.
There’s no doubt that London Seaward FC, the East London-based women’s football club my company sponsors in Division 1 South East of the Women’s National League (Tier 4), has performed well in the first part of the season. They currently sit fifth in their eleven-team division after earning 13 points from four wins, one draw, and two losses.
If you throw in solid performances in cup competitions where they were eliminated by clubs a league higher (Tier 3), it's been quite a good year. The wild card has been the weather. At least five matches have been moved or postponed due to waterlogged or snowy pitches that were unplayable.
I got bitten by one of those cancellations when my wife and I flew to the UK in November. Seaward had an away fixture scheduled for the afternoon of the day we landed at Heathrow; I figured there was no way I could get to the venue and planned to continue on to Manchester with Ginny until I noticed that the match would be played at a stadium literally half a mile south of the airport. It was a sunny day so I changed my plans, only to receive a message just as I walked past security saying the pitch was still a bog from several days of rain and the match was off.
Bad news: no game. Good news: a day in London, albeit one where I was worn out from flying. Fast forward to Wednesday when Ginny and I took the train back from Manchester and I got to attend a training session and hand out the Oregon chocolate Ginny and I had brought for the players. (Note to self: bring some for the manager and coaches when we return.) After a meet-and-greet with the players where they gifted Ginny and I signed jerseys, we spent the rest of the week seeing shows, speaking with the club’s management, and getting to know the East London borough of Waltham Forest where the club plays.
On Sunday, two committee members drove us to Folkestone, a small English seaside town near Ipswich, for Seaward’s cup tie against Ipswich Town. It was a two-hour drive each way and, even though we lost 3-0, the players gave a good account of themselves against a side that is in third place in their league and has a realistic shot at promotion to the Barclay’s Women’s Championship (Tier 2).
London Seaward FC (left, in seafoam green away shirts) vs. Ipswich Town. Photo by the author.
At this point Seaward are about one-third of the way through their league matches, with seven played and thirteen to go. Earning promotion would be a stretch, but the club is well ahead of the pace to exceed their point total from last season even though they will play fewer matches. That’s good progress.
As a sponsor, I’ve continued to stay back and let the club work through the season and plan for the future. The social media team promoted my LinkedIn Learning courses that were published in November and will do the same for the independent releases coming early next year, but I didn’t want to generate artificial traffic when I had nothing new to offer. I’ll develop my plans for promotion in 2023 and begin creating material in earnest in the new year.
Seaward have taken several steps forward and are improving by the week. It’s time for me to match their work rate.
I’ve learned valuable lessons from playing all kinds of sports and games, but one stands out among the others: snooker. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s what the starting position looks like.
DerHexer, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 4.0
The angle of this photo hides the true size of the table. A typical bar pool table in the U.S. is 6 feet long and 4 feet wide (6’ x 4’), 8’ x 6’ tables are common in pool halls, but a full-sized table is 9’ x 6’. Snooker tables are 12’ x 6’, which means 33% more surface area than even the largest standard pool tables for eight ball, nine ball, and straight pool.
Snooker combines straight pool, where you sink the object balls in any order, and a rotation game such as nine ball where you must target (though not necessarily make) the balls in numerical order. In snooker you pot a red for one point and then nominate a color. After sinking all 15 reds and the nominated color, with the colors being respotted after they’re made, players must pot the colors in order without replacement. Color order is yellow for two points, green for three, brown for four, blue for five, pink for six, and black for seven. If you run the table and make a black after each red, you’ll score 147 points.
So, yeah…this game is hard. The balls are heavier than standard billiard balls, the pockets are tighter, and they have rounded edges instead of points. As a long-time eight ball and nine ball player that difference took some getting used to.
I played snooker a couple of times when I lived in Canada and at odd intervals since then but hadn’t stepped to a table for over 20 years. Last month I was in London on a business trip and had time to sneak away for a couple of hours. A friend of a friend recommended Cousins Snooker and Pool in Holloway, between Seven Sisters and Finsbury Park on the Victoria tube line. Excellent choice. The club is open and friendly, there’s plenty of space between tables, and the membership fee is quite reasonable.
Why was I keen to play snooker again? In part because it’s challenging and fun, but also because it reinforces the need to mix tactics, strategy, offense, and defense in your approach. There aren’t many places to hide when you’re playing eight ball or nine ball, especially when there are just a few balls left on the table. Safety play is certainly possible and at times necessary in those games, but snooker’s vast distances and higher ball count early in the game put a premium on maneuvering and safety play. Once the first red goes down the nature of the game changes a bit, but there’s always a chance you won’t have a clear shot on a red and will have to play safe.
If you’re not familiar with snooker, I encourage you to watch some matches on YouTube. The ease with which professional players maneuver the ball and make long-range shots hide how difficult the game is for amateurs. A friend and I played for two hours and finished two frames, which gives you an idea of how much time to set aside if you do get to play.
After you’re done playing, or have watched some matches on YouTube, take some time to consider how your experience relates to life and business. The lessons will be different for everyone, but I personally gained an appreciation for when it was time to go on full offense, make shots with offensive and defensive components, or play it safe. You can also challenge yourself in friendly games to go against your natural tendencies. I’ve done so and gained valuable insights.
I hope you get a chance to try snooker—it’s a marvelous game. Be sure to watch the clock, though, so you’re not late for dinner!
As the 2022/23 season nears the halfway point, I wanted to congratulate London Seaward on a terrific start to the campaign and share my thoughts on how I hope to support the club going forward.
I’ve been fairly quiet, in part because I had a couple of courses to create and record for LinkedIn Learning but also because I’m in the process of discovering how football is played at a serious level and how to be a sponsor. For the first bit, I’m happy to say Manager Dan McKimm took some time to explain the basics of LSFC’s offensive and defensive frameworks (which I mustn’t share, sorry) so I can better appreciate the matches. As someone who never advanced past the youth levels of the sport, I appreciate those insights.
How to be a sponsor is even more foreign to me. As a writer and online training course developer, I spend my life behind the scenes and appear as words on a page or a voice in a video, usually accompanied by an author photo. My approach as a writer and online course developer is to provide accurate, usable information that focuses on learners and their needs. In a similar vein, I add value for my publishers by turning in good quality work on time. The analogies to playing successful football are obvious, but there’s another truth sponsors should acknowledge: that our best approach is almost always to provide resources and step back.
Just as learners must apply the lessons I teach in their workplace or school, so must LSFC train for and play the matches. Sponsor funding goes to pitch rental (a significant expense in London), kits, and player expenses so clubs can avoid the pay-to-play model that severely limits who can pursue the game they love. That last point emphasizes the value of individual sponsorships, for which I know the players are grateful and I appreciate because it reinforces the value of the club to the community.
I will support London Seaward going forward by following the club on social media, especially on game days, and visit Waltham Forest when I’m able. Ginny and I hope to attend the November match with Hounslow and the March home games against QPR and Wimbledon. Beyond that, I trust the club to make best use of the resources we sponsors provide and play their best football on the pitch.
You’ve probably seen my recent announcement that my company, Technology and Society, is the Platinum Sponsor for London Seaward FC, a women’s football club playing in the English National League Division 1 South East.
Photo credit: TouchTight Media
You might ask: Why in the world would a writer who lives in Portland, Oregon, USA sponsor a women’s football (soccer) team based in Waltham Forest, East London?
First off, fair question. There’s no single, straightforward answer, but my decision came down to an affinity for that part of East London (my wife and I visited Waltham Forest several years ago), a desire to reach across borders as an extension of the support and sponsorship efforts my wife and I undertake in Portland, and as a show of support for a group of strong, talented women who fought to keep their club alive.
London Seaward were affiliated with a name men’s club in East London but were dropped after the 2020/21 season. With just a couple of months to go before the start of the 2021/22 campaign, the players assumed management of the club and convinced the Football Association to let them maintain their position in the pyramid without being relegated to a lower division. Managers, coaches, physios, and other support personnel stayed on or joined to help them stay afloat. Initial sponsorships provided funds for that first year, but they needed a new shirt sponsor for 2022/23. That’s where I came in.
I heard about London Seaward through their digital marketing director, who I happened to follow on Twitter. He asked if there were any London startups willing to sponsor the team. After a few days with no announcements, I read up on the team’s history and commitment to their community and asked if the shirt sponsorship was still available. It was, so we sorted the details and Technology and Society, represented online by techsoc.com, became the team’s Platinum Sponsor.
My late signing, travel at the end of the summer holiday season, and world events delayed our official announcement until now, but I’m happy to be part of the team. As an American I’m honor-bound to try to make a profit from this sponsorship, but I literally have the rest of my life to do so. I hope to build awareness of my courses on LinkedIn Learning, the books I have available through Amazon and other retailers, and other independent projects or speaking engagements, but my main goal for now is to support the team and the Waltham Forest community. I’ll figure out the rest later.
To start the ball rolling here, I thought I'd revisit a post I made on my Improspectives® blog back in February 2017 regarding Lincoln's shock win over Burnley in the men's FA Cup.
One of the undying joys of sports is watching an underdog beat a massive favorite. The U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the USSR in the semi-finals of the 1980 Winter Olympics is one such win, as was the #15 seed University of Richmond basketball team’s win in the first round against my alma mater, the #2 seed Syracuse Orange. Even though those wins were improbable, they came in contests among reasonably well-matched teams. Richmond and Syracuse are both Division I programs, so they could recruit and offer scholarships to elite players.
Few tournaments remain where teams of all levels compete on equal terms. Even the famed Indiana state high school basketball tournament changed to four divisions based on enrollment in 1997. The exception is soccer, or football as it’s called everywhere except in the U.S. and Canada. Most national organizations hold a tournament where teams of all levels compete. In England, that tournament is the FA (Football Association) Cup. Premier League, League Championship, and League 1 teams get byes through the early rounds, but the lower division sides advance and, on occasion, knock off one of the big boys. It’s unusual for a League 1 or League 2 side to beat a Premier League team, but it does happen.
And then there’s Lincoln. Lincoln plays in the National League, which is, in rank order, below the Premier League, League Championship, League 1, and League 2. According to the New York Times, Lincoln was 81 places below Premier League side Burnley when they played on February 18. No National League team had ever beaten a Premier League side in an FA Cup game until Lincoln pulled it off.
While the win is shocking, it’s doesn’t come against Lincoln’s run of form. They reached the Round of 16 by beating League Championship sides Ipswich and Brighton, so they were clearly playing well. And Burnley is a mid-table club, substantially behind the leaders but well above the cutoff line for relegation to the League Championship. (The bottom three Premier League teams are relegated, while the top two League Championship teams, plus the winner of a playoff among the sides that finished third through sixth, are promoted.) Burnley has the money to attract top-flight foreign talent, while Lincoln fields part-timers who work to supplement their football pay.
Upsets of this magnitude make for great stories, but they also point to the depth of talent available to take the field for English sides at all levels of the game. The history of the game, its cultural significance, and the pride that comes from playing well shine through Lincoln’s success. As the saying goes, “England expects.” Lincoln has exceeded those expectations.
Curtis Frye is the president of Technology and Society, Incorporated.