July 14, 2022
It was a major moment in my youth soccer coaching career when the kids finally understood the concept of “staying in your lane.” Mob ball was entertaining for spectators but hardly an effective game plan. You could not really work on skill development or personal fitness with all eleven kids trying to kick the ball at the same time. Yes, I know the goalie is supposed to “stay home,” but five- and six-year-olds do not understand position play. Easily distracted, often at the direction of well- meaning parents, they required considerable coaching before they started to “socially distance” on the pitch. We still hear that “stay in your lane” advice in the adult working world. Sometimes it even makes sense; you cannot have a successful operation if your associates do not concentrate on their assigned tasks to the exclusion of other “shiny things” that they see in their peripheral vision. But it is not always the best practice. Too much “focus” quickly gets you into “tunnel vision” territory, a place where very bad things can happen very quickly. On the soccer field, even a very skilled ball handler can find themselves “dispossessed” if they concentrate too diligently on their footwork. It happens in other sports as well; the point guard who gets the ball stolen because their field of vision is not wide enough, the wide receiver concentrating the ball into their hands and not seeing the cornerback about to crush him. No one wants to be constantly second-guessed. As a coach, you develop your game plan and you expect it to be executed the way you drew it up. Screaming at a kid for being “out of their lane” seconds before they make a goal saving clearance is an occupational hazard. Not all the “character building” is amongst the children! I wrote last time about the need to develop basic skills before you can contribute to your “team” in a meaningful way. Learning and mastering your official duties has to be a priority. During that process you will find that there are aspects of the work you enjoy and some other things you endure. We had a girl on that first team who really, really like to kick the ball hard and far; she was not much for dribbling or passing. Finding the best position for her [full back] was not in line with her desire to score goals, so she disciplined herself to acquire the ball control skills needed to get a better assignment. You may not like playing “fullback” in your shop, but until you gain the skills needed to get that “dream job” you are well-advised to become the best “fullback” possible. But keep your eyes open for opportunities to expand your role; no one gets promoted by just doing their assigned job. Good teammates “do their job.” Great players help out where needed. Hall-of-Famers change the game and redefine their positions. The same thing happens in offices and shops. More on this topic next time.