Hopefully, Ted Lasso is not your only option, but the upbeat soccer coach does set a good example for teachers. When viewed through an educational lens, Ted Lasso has many lessons for teachers. This isn’t surprising given that the show, which premieres on Apple TV+ on March 15 for season three, was inspired by a teacher. Jason Sudeikis, who plays the perpetually optimistic and perpetually mustached title character, based Lasso on his former high school basketball coach and math teacher, Donnie Campbell.

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When I interviewed Campbell in 2021, it was clear why Sudeikis was so influenced by him. Campbell, like the fictional Lasso, values human connection, mentorship, and relationships above all else. As an educator, I find Lasso’s motivational strategies on the screen to be beneficial and a good reminder of what a true teacher and mentor can do when we are at our best.

Also see: Teaching Advice From The Coach & Educator Who Inspired Mr. Ted Lasso (opens in new tab)
I’m excited to see what Season 3 has in store. Meanwhile, the first two seasons of the show are excellent reminders of how far positivity, curiosity, kindness, and caring can go in inspiring and leading students.

1. Subject Matter Expertise Isn’t Everything

When Lasso arrives in England in season 1, he knows next to nothing about soccer (even by the end of season 2), but that doesn’t stop the eager Yankee from helping his players grow both on and off the field, even if winning soccer games is only a small part of that growth. It’s a good reminder that our job as teachers is to guide students on their own educational journeys, mentoring or coaching them on their knowledge accumulation rather than imparting our wisdom to them.

“Ted Lasso,” starring Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, and Jason Sudeikis, will premiere on Apple TV+ on March 15, 2023. (Image courtesy of Apple + TV)

2. Curiosity is Key

Lasso participates in a high-stakes dart game and surprises everyone with his bullseye striking abilities in one of the show’s signature scenes. “Guys have always underestimated me,” he says in the scene. “And I never understood why for years. It used to irritate me greatly. But then one day, while driving my son to school, I noticed this Walt Whitman quote painted on the wall. ‘Be curious, not judgmental,’ it said.”

Curiosity is what defines Lasso and is one of the most important qualities students can possess. The rest is simple once we’ve piqued students’ interest in learning. Okay, this is simpler.

Curiosity is what defines Lasso and is one of the most important qualities students can possess. The rest is simple once we’ve piqued students’ interest in learning. Okay, this is simpler.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Incorporate Ideas From Others

One of Lasso’s strengths – arguably his only – as a soccer strategist is his willingness to incorporate ideas from others without jeopardizing his ego or authority. Whether it’s taking advice from Coach Beard, Roy Kent, or Nathan (at least in season 1), or learning new tricks from his teammates, Lasso is always open to new ideas. This is especially important for teachers, who must constantly adapt to new technology and be willing to reach out to colleagues and students to learn about everything from new digital platforms to the music students listen to.

4. Positivity Isn’t a Miracle Cure

“Be positive,” is Lasso’s motto, but as the season progresses, he and the other characters learn that positivity isn’t always enough. To the chagrin of some viewers, the season frequently features darker themes and less-than-happy-go-lucky twists. While we can debate the dramatic merits of season 2’s direction, it’s certainly true in life and in the classroom that simply being positive isn’t enough to overcome all obstacles. We will face stumbling blocks, obstacles, and losses no matter how hard we work or how positive we are. To avoid toxic positivity, we must not gloss over the difficulties of our students, colleagues, and ourselves. In other words, even if we choose to see the cup as half full, we must acknowledge that it is occasionally half empty of tea.

5. Winning Isn’t Everything

Lasso is more concerned with the players on his team than with winning. While that may not be the attitude you’d prefer your favorite sports coach to have, there is a lesson for teachers here. We as educators are rightly concerned with grades and how well students understand the subjects we teach. However, while assessing student academic performance is important, the impact of a good class is about more than just the final score or grade, and education is not a zero-sum game.When adults reflect on their education, they often don’t remember what an educator or mentor taught them about a specific subject, but they do remember how that educator cared about them as individuals and got them excited about the class, whatever that class was. Sometimes it’s not the final score that matters, but how you played the game.