Last Saturday, I huddled under an umbrella as my 5-year-old played her final game of this rainy spring soccer season. These girls are a pack of fierce little fireballs and I love to watch them play.
Like most girls this age, they never run out of energy, they don’t complain about the rain or the cold, they cheer for their teammates when they are sitting on the bench and they gleefully beeline for the snack basket as soon as that final whistle blows. It’s a whole lot of adorable each and every week.
And it’s more than that.
I realized this week that there are some significant parallels between what happens on that field and what I see in my coaching practice with high impact women. These little soccer dynamos have a few behavior patterns that can shed some light on what we do as grownups.
Here are three observations and the lessons I’ve learned from these unexpected teachers!
1. They only play on a small piece of the field.
Our girls moved up to a much bigger field this season based on their age – they went from 3 vs. 3 on a 20×30 field in the fall to 7 vs. 7 on a 40×60 field this spring! (That’s four times the square footage if you’re tracking the math.) But guess what. They play like they are still on the old field. They cluster themselves into a corner of the field and act like there are imaginary white lines keeping them there. They seem completely unaware that there is newly available space all around them that could be used to their advantage.
Adult women do the same thing. We get the promotion we wanted, or the flexibility we asked for, or the career change we dreamed of, but we keep working the way we always have. We don’t notice that the whole game has changed, that we have a new field of play, and that we have more room to maneuver. We can’t see the possibilities that these progressions open up because we’re too busy playing the game to notice that we’re on a brand new field.
Are you staying in the lines, even when they are imaginary?
2. They want to be in every play.
During the game there were often 24 feet trying to touch that one ball…at the exact same time. (Everyone but the goalies!) They’d cluster around it three girls deep and poke their foot into a sea of shin guards to get in one little touch that might move the ball all of 3 inches. They were oblivious to the fact that they would get farther faster if they moved themselves into open space and let someone get the ball to them. They haven’t yet grasped the power of the assist. If they would just get open and let someone pass them the ball, they could sprint freely toward the goal!
And as adults? How many of us are white-knuckling it through our day trying to do every single thing ourselves? Maybe we do it because we think we can do it better than anyone else, or because we secretly want the credit, or because we’ve bought into the idea that it’s our job to do every blessed thing in life on our own. But when we do so, we’re like the kid who wants to be in every play. We may move each ball a few inches, but we’ll never get open space to run toward our goals. That takes teamwork and delegation.
Are you overlooking the power of the assist?
3. They don’t keep their eye on the goal.
I watched one game early this season in which our fierce little fireballs took no fewer than 40 shots on goal. Can you guess how many went in? Not a one. Now we could break down game film here and talk about all the reasons why, but the biggest problem was that they just didn’t have their eyes on the goal. Girl after girl dribbled steadily down the field, eyes fixed on her feet and the ball, completely focused on keeping it close and in control…as she ran all the way out of bounds! She wasn’t looking at the goal, she was too busy doing the work.
We do this, too. As grownups, we get so focused on doing the tasks right in front of our face that we forget to make sure that what we’re doing is taking us where we want to go! If we don’t pick our heads up now and then to make sure we’re still running in the right direction, we’ll never get to our goal.
Are you so focused on doing that you’ve lost sight of where you’re going?
Look, learning these lessons is all part of the process for our girls. They won’t be five forever! And just as these girls will play bigger and smarter next year, so too can you. Let this team of five year old soccer players inspire you to uplevel your own game.
It’s never too late to learn some new tricks, but its always easier if you have a coach who knows the game and can see the field from a different angle. If you’re ready to play bigger and smarter, then let’s talk .