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Why my daughter’s soccer match made me think of running a business

My high achieving first born of three has been sick with glandular fever for eight months and is easing her way back to school full-time. I’ve had a bug that wiped me from work for two days so when I was gingerly positioned on my portable chair, in the sun, hoping to read my newspaper on Saturday to watch my daughters first soccer game of the season — it was notable in more ways than one.

What struck me most, is that although she is young and strong, her fitness level just wasn’t there. Same for the rest of her team — young, strong but not enough to win. They were not fit for game or fit for purpose.

In contrast, the other team from the country had the stamina to keep going at a strong, consistent pace throughout the match. There were no surprises the score was 3-1 to them. This got me thinking of being fit for purpose at work and it struck me that soccer games were very much like running a business for a whole variety of reasons. Complete with purpose, direction, strategy, team, performance, crowd support, satisfaction, results and much continual learning.  These are my thoughts from the soccer sidelines, re-emphasised after watching State of Origin last night!

Get the right team on side

Pick the right people and train them well.  Aim to get the right people on the bus. It’s all about the people you work with. Those that moan, give up, deflect positive energy are a drain on the team and its focus. Re-direct them or manage them out of the team with grace, if you want to win. Having the right team around you is a good sign you are going to reach top league.

The right coach can make or break

The quality of the coach and the strategy he/she directs makes a big impact on performance and team spirit. From firm, good direction, sandwiching counsel in a ‘good news, constructive news, good news’ format to keep the team member intact and growing. Inspiration from a good leader is the glue that keeps winning teams together.

When the going gets tough

Winners don’t give up however tough the territory. When the competition is ahead and your scores are down, you need the strength not to spiral and lose faith, but to pick you and your team up. In a match, as in business, we have little time to feel sorry for ourselves or lose confidence. The team that shows resilience in the face of steep competition often ends up the most popular. Resilience and tenacity are what separates the winners from the losers — just keep going.

Fit for purpose

If the team isn’t prepared – trained and strong enough — the whole task of competing to win is more difficult. Strength and muscle power go a long way to success in business. Be the standout. If you are focused, on message, acting out your core values, you have nothing to lose. And be ready to compete — have the gear. The water bottle, right shoes, right equipment. You can’t compete on an even field, if you don’t have the right gear.

Passion and focus

If you don’t love what you are doing and your heart really isn’t in it, do everyone a favour —  most of all yourself — and exit left. Leave the team to get on and succeed. It was clear on Saturday who was really keen, who meant business and who had their mind elsewhere. The ones with passion and focus were the best. It was a joy to watch. “No passion no win”, is pretty much the motto in sport and in business. Do what you love most of the time.


Be sure of what you stand for and hold the course. One’s reputation as a team member goes a long way. Think Phar Lap or the latest wonder horse Black Caviar.  Your reputation breaks or makes a team. Hold it precious and live and play to the values you hold dear.  And try not to be consumed with what you look like on the way — what’s inside and your actions have far more importance.

Hesitate and you lose

Gut instinct is usually right. Hesitate? Doubt yourself? And you leave yourself open to lose the pass, lose the game or lose the league. And you need to be able to think on your feet, and switch strategy, last minute.


My presence on the soccer field as a parent, however silent I choose to be supporting my child, had her engaged and trying her hardest. We need supporters. Drink the support of those around you and put it to good use. Be supported to win.

Sport is a great way to learn off field business lessons. I’ve enjoyed my team mates this week. We are a good team.

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