Ah, the lessons that we can learn from our kids…
My son Danny played his first competitive game of (field) hockey on Sunday. He hasn’t been playing for so long and is a year young for his U10 team, but in the name of inclusivity, he was given a chance to get some game time. The club is lovely in this way. His stick skills are pretty reasonable, but he hasn’t yet got a clue in terms of where he should be on the pitch at any given time, bless him. That will come with observation and more coaching, but that wasn’t his main problem on Sunday.
The older boys on the team didn’t really want to pass to him.
There is no rule in sport (or life) that dictates that you should get a fair share of the passes (or opportunities). Just because there are four midfield players doesn’t mean that you should be given the ball 25% of the time. You can put yourself in the best positions, scream “pass” until you are blue in the face, but there are deeper forces at work. I had a chat with him in the car on the way home about what he can do to gain the confidence of his team mates.
The conundrum is that they probably don’t think that he is very good, but if he isn’t given the ball, he can’t prove what he can do with it. They have practiced with him a little at training, but much of that has been skills-based, and they hadn’t seen him perform in the heat of a game.
To my mind, there are a few things that he can do to win them over:
He should focus on making the simple passes stick when they play mini-games in training, rather than trying tricky skills that he hasn’t yet perfected. Being a safe pair of hands is a solid foundation for building trust. When you have the absolute confidence that you can do the basics well, this confidence will be transmitted to those around you.
He should observe the role models around him. There are a couple of superb players in the team, and I have suggested that he should focus all of his energies on watching every aspect of their play. When you start to play like one of the team, you become one of the team. There is no shame in admitting that someone is better at something, and even at age 8, he shouldn’t be shy to ask his older team mates for advice.
He should join in with the banter wherever possible. Taking every opportunity to build relationships with his team mates will let them get to know him. When no one passes to you, it is easy to feel like a failure and shrink away from the collective, but in reality, you are actually only a few jokes away from being one of the boys. When you do let people into your world a little, trust is never far away.
He should encourage the success of others. When another player does something worthy of praise, he should be the first to give the fist bump. When you celebrate the success of others, there is a natural inclination to include you in their success in the future. Subconsciously they will be looking for a reason to praise you in return.
Lastly, he should never ever moan. The other kids aren’t passing to him for a reason. Addressing those reasons in a positive way is far more powerful than complaining about the injustice of it all. There is always something you can do to influence your situation – you simply need to make an effort to do it in the right way.
To be brutally honest (and as his Dad, this is hard to admit), he isn’t brilliant yet, but if he keeps practicing and does all of the above, there is every chance that in a few games time he might be involved a little more.
As I was watching in the freezing cold on the sidelines, I felt that there were more than a few parallels with my solopreneurial journey as a writer.
What do you do when no one wants to pass to you?
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