This summer has been almost normal for one part of my life, the soccer season. Up Saturday mornings, setting up, coaching, and sometimes resolving issues that should be left on the soccer pitch. It was a shorter season than normal, but any season for soccer is a great season.
Getting back to the soccer pitch and watching the Canadian Women’s National team win the gold medal got me thinking – can soccer really be the path to solving all major problems in the world?
I don’t know about the world, but looking a bit closer I can see the lessons from soccer applied to fix many things.
Soccer, like all team sports, puts the team before the individual. That is a great theory at least, but I feel soccer has the best balance of individual performance meshing with team performance.
Watch any professional soccer game and you will see the play go up the soccer pitch, many players working together, then one person scores. Everyone celebrates. There are many situations when the lessons of team building in soccer could fix issues in the working world.
Soccer promotes creative thinking, which means coming up with creative solutions to the same problem – get the ball in the back of the goal. Many of life’s mundane tasks are less mundane if we try doing things a bit differently so long as the results are the same. I have thought of trying this with cooking, but am afraid to veer too far out of the comfort zone of others in the family.
It’s okay to not win or lose in soccer. One of the criticizms of soccer is that if a 90-minute long game ends in a 0-0 draw, what is the point? The point is that each team takes one point away in the standings. Everyone gets a little bit further along in the season. It does sound like a compromise because each team is likely unhappy that they didn’t win, but at least they didn’t lose.
Regular seasons in soccer mean something. Professional soccer leagues do not have playoffs, period. If you are first in the standings at the end of the season, you win. The whole season matters. A continuous effort, or sometimes dumb luck, will propel you to the top.
The flip side of this, unlike North American pro-sports, if you are at the bottom of the league at season’s end, you get kicked out. Promotion and relegation means a club’s seat at the top level is never guaranteed. Nothing ever really is. There is a hard lesson to that. The benefit to it is everyone has a chance to work their way up to greatness. Every team has the opportunity – if they work for it – to move up to the top level of competition. Many of the soccer clubs I follow have done just that.
Special competitions like the Olympics, Euros, or World Cup have championship-style tournament brackets and there are even lessons to take away here. My favourite one is the penalty shoot out. After all the regular time and extra time is over, each team takes turns trying to shoot the ball in the other team’s net. Sounds simple, but it’s a lot of pressure. If the game is still tied after five shot attempts, it is sudden death. The next goal or save can win it all.
There are many times we’ve had to resolve to drawing names from a hat, or using rock-paper-scissors to settle a tie, even in politics. I think resorting to the penalty shoot out would be the best way to do it. At least it would be entertaining.