A few years ago, my son was very focused on his soccer and he joined a development squad to accelerate his skills development. What I loved about the approach that the coaches used was that there was a single key philosophy that underpinned everything they did. That concept was composure on the ball. So everything they did was designed to elevate a player’s composure on the ball.
So what is composure on the ball? Developing composure on the ball was about developing each player’s touch and finesse with the ball so that they always had the ball under control. But the most important thing was that they could maintain this ball control without looking down at the ball. As you can imagine, when somebody is learning to play soccer, because you use your feet to control the ball, that a lot of people spend their time looking down to watch what their feet are doing. They want to make sure that their feet are contacting the ball to move the ball where they want it to go.
Developing composure on the ball is about developing a level of skill that allows you to control the ball without having to look down at it.
Why was this the philosophy? To develop a player’s composure on the ball? Because by developing a mastery of the basic skills, so that players no longer had to look down at their feet in order to maintain control of the ball, players can keep their heads up, look up and around.
What makes that important?
When you look up and around in a game of soccer or any game for that matter, it means that you can see what’s happening around you. It means that you can identify risks and threats. For example, an opposition player, who’s coming to challenge you. And it also means that you can identify opportunities when your players are in good space or good position, and you can pass them the ball, you can move down the field yourself and see options to score.
If you’re looking down at your feet, you don’t see any of those things. So you can be vulnerable to a challenge coming from a player right next to you. You can miss an opportunity to use one of your teammates, or lose an option to improve field position. And that doesn’t get you the results that you want.
So the idea of composure on the ball is about creating options. If I’m looking up and around as a player, I can see what’s going on. I can analyse the situation and gain insight. I can understand the risks. I can see the opportunities. And I’ve got time to develop options, to respond to those things.
But if I’m looking down, I get an immediate threat or opportunity, and I don’t have the time to develop options. So I potentially miss that opportunity or I incur the risk.
What does that have to do with leadership?
Well, what I notice is that leaders can spend too much time looking down focusing on the basics, the fundamentals, giving that their attention, rather than looking up, understanding their context, seeing the risks, the threats, the opportunities, and having time to develop their options.
By developing mastery of the foundations, you create the time and the space to be able to look up and to lead, to be more strategic, to be planful about where you invest your time and your energy and your efforts, so you have the most impact and make the biggest difference.
Leaders everywhere want to make a difference. So if you want to elevate your leadership, you want to elevate your impact, particularly now, when we do need to be vigilant and aware of our context, the changing conditions, the potential threats and risks, the potential opportunities and possibilities, then you need to master the basics.
My question to you is which of the foundations, the basics, are preventing you from looking up?
Maybe it is:
- Your daily routines
- How you focus
- Your organisation
- Your clutter
- Where you focus your time and energy and effort
- Your planning
- Your network
- Your boss
- Your team
- Your self-care
- Your priorities
- Your balance
There are a whole range of foundations, including those above, that if they were mastered, if you didn’t have to focus on them, if they just happened by touch, would allow you to raise your focus to all of the other things that need your attention in order for you to take the opportunities and mitigate the risks.
So right now, what’s one thing that you could do to elevate your composure on the ball?
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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