What game are you playing?
One Saturday morning Jacki and I took the kids to our local park.
It was late summer, so the plan was to let Lily and James play on the swings, roundabout etc. and then take a walk along the canal path down to a small bijou café for lunch.
Jacki had arranged to meet her sister around 10am, which was also the time an under 8’s football match was due to kick-off.
Being a BIG football fan (for those that are interested Liverpool is my team), I suggested to the ‘girls’ that whilst the kids were destroying the play area I wouldn’t mind watching the game. To be honest, none of the other options were appealing, trying to fit on a roundabout the size of a car tyre with lots of five years olds, or listening to the latest gossip about TOWIE or something else. So, with permission granted for being a ‘good boy,’ I settled down on the touchline to watch a game of football.
Now when I say football, it’s more about eight-year-olds chasing around a pitch all trying to kick the ball, or sometimes the other players.
Watching the game unfold it became clearer that football or any other team sport has so many similarities as our businesses. They both have plans, key roles and responsibilities, tactics, ownership, phases, objectives, skills, scorecards, rules, gatekeepers etc.
However, this ‘business’ I could sense within a few minutes was going to FAIL.
My reason for coming to this conclusion was not due to the score line, I had no idea what that was, it was purely down to the confusion that all the stakeholders (coach, other players, parents) were imparting to their eight-year-olds.
One player in the space of five minutes must have had at least four different instructions given (shouted) to him by different interested parties. By chance I caught the poor lad’s eyes on the fifth instruction and his ‘beam me up Scotty’ expression said it all.
This continued throughout the whole game and at the final whistle both teams shook hands whilst the parents and the coaches shook their heads. I assume they must have lost as a post mortem had started as the headed to the touchline.
I decided to investigate further and asked one of the coaches from the home team about his football education and after a few minutes understood that it was all self-taught, not unlike most businessmen and women. There had been no formal education.
Throughout that day and the next week, I was curious about the education of football coaching and wondered what steps there were if you wanted to qualify. I knew that there was a phrase I had heard called ‘coaching badges’ which you had to get to be able to coach at a high level. But what was the path to achieving these?
The more I thought about it and its relation to business the more I wanted to see how enthusiastic people learn about football. I also wanted to see of thy were taught.
I decided to contact the Football Association and find out about coaching, the learning and progression there would be for an amateur like myself. Lily and James has started school and I was keen to look for other things to do on my Fridays.
After a bit of research, I finally discovered the path and that FA Coaching Level 1 was my entry point. Further research told me there was a new intake starting locally in a few weeks. So, I applied…
Now fast forward to Saturday 12th of November and I am sat in a classroom with 17 other wannabe football coaches. The big difference is that they ALL had been coaching in their clubs for years BUT up to then had been self-taught. I was just an enthusiast and scholar who wanted to learn the art of football but also understand the context in relation to business. Our teacher, Simon was an England senior coach who was also part of the FA senior set up.
You should remember I was doing this to see how the amateur self-taught wannabees were provided information that would help them improve theirs and their club’s performances.
After the usual introductions, we were all asked a very simple and insightful question and it got the heart of the programme straight away. In fact, Simon said unless we understand the ‘Game’ then how can we even hope to understand what we do to master it…
The question was: ‘What is football? Describe the essence of it’.
We split into groups and all had a go at answering this simple question!
It’s about scoring more goals that the opponent
It’s two teams trying to get the ball from their side of the pitch into the opponent’s goal
It’s a game of skill played with a ball
I personally thought all the answers were about right, but as my new mentor pointed out each one would fundamentally lead to a different way to play the game. It is therefore key to understand it.
He eventually put us out of our misery by telling us that:
Football is an invasion game.
With this new-found information, we discussed for the next few hours the component items that make up the game and again we suggested many things like scoring, defending, attacking, tackling, dribbling etc.
Again, guru Simon boiled it down to three things. Which on reflection is SO simple.
- In possession
- Out of possession
- In transition
He explained that we could watch ANY game now and at any time understand what phase is being played by the team and then have a strategy for any of those three phases that only we understand. Our game plan. Of course, it is then all about making sure that everybody knows what they are meant to do during that phase and executing on that during the game and then the coaches (us) training the players to achieve those objectives before and after the game.
At the end of my first day, I was completely taken aback, I had been a football player (school) a massive fan for most of my life and have probably watched over 1,000 games, however, this new insight gave me a very different perspective on the ‘beautiful’ game.
- It got me thinking about business as a game and what game are we all playing. What are the phases we encounter and the roles that are needed to achieve our success?
- How much do we as business owners really understand the essence of our business and what elements and phases make up our ‘beautiful’ game?
- What is our educational route to understanding this and what are we going to do about it?
This month’s article is more about wanting you to think about what business you are in and how do you and your team play to win. To be honest, if you don’t know, then the chances of you winning your game are very remote.
The good news it is a new year and a new beginning or in football parlance its only half time…