Dan Naden

Life lessons from a pint-size soccer pitch

I was nervous.

It was soccer game day for teams named Tigers, Kickers, Dolphins, Yellowjackets.

The challenges you face today are also being experienced by a youth soccer team.

I’d hung up my soccer shoes years ago, but the youngsters in our household had taking a liking for soccer. I couldn’t resist the temptation to coach.

I wasn’t sure how this would go.

Practice sessions in the backyard sometimes turned into giggle fests instead of getting a feel for the ball at the feet. Other days, it seemed the US national team should be calling any minute. 😉

We’ve all heard forming, storming, norming, performing: it’s a phrase introduced to the world by psychologist Bruce Tuckman back in 1965. Bruce saw these 4 phases as the path to high-performance that most teams follow.

I don’t know that our teams are on the fast track to high-performance just yet, but I do know that we will have plenty of fun. As I reflected on these youngsters learning the basics, I couldn’t help, but draw parallels between us ‘serious’ professionals toiling away at the office every day.

As I coached the little girls and boys of the future, I consoled fragile egos, encouraged little tired legs to move faster, corrected when things got a little too ‘rough’.

I vividly remember a small soccer player saying these things under the warm Texas sun:

  • “Why don’t they ever give me a turn?”
  • “I am kinda scared out here.”
  • “Am I doing alright?”

Sound familiar?

Couldn’t these phrases be heard in meeting rooms and cubicles around this nation?

  • “I just want an opportunity. Why does Sheila always get assigned the best projects?”
  • “I’ve never done work like this before. This is frightening to go outside my comfort zone.”
  • “I wonder if my boss thinks I am doing a good job. I’d really appreciate some feedback.”

Children or adults can all agree on 3 things:

  1. Everyone wants a shot to show his/her brilliance.
  2. Change is difficult, even for seasoned workers.
  3. We all just want to be appreciated.

Teams will morph, change, form, storm, and hopefully, eventually perform. These truisms apply equally on the soccer field and in the working world. When joining a team (pint-size or jumbo-size), stay aware that there are many dynamics at play between individuals.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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