These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

There are now over 50 posts to check out, tweet, link to facebook or google+ Please feel free to share a link BUT If you use any of the illustrations please acknowledge the source as Phil Manchester, Bradford, England. You can follow me on twitter @philmanchester

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Move away tackler

Tackling is an essential component of team sport.

In what is called the contact area referees have to be at thier most observant.

In rugby, once a tackle has been completed, the player has to make an attempt to move away from the tackle and can't hold the opposing player down, handle the ball whilst on the ground or lie over the ball - the result: penalty.

The tackled player also has responsibilities too - they must release the ball, they can't lie on the ball and they can't play the ball with their hand while they are on the ground - the result: penalty.

It all sounds a bit technical, but the spirit of the law is to keep the game flowing and the referee will call a cautionary "move away tackler"

The temptation as a player, is to do the opposite - to try and gain a marginal advantage. It's not surprising that in a sport like rugby or amercian football, the contact area becomes a very "grey" area. The spirit of the law is stretched to the point that the refree intervenes and...well you know the result.

Life has its "contact areas" too - at work, in our liesure times and specifically in our relationships. How we respond in these areas, the decisions we make, set in motion event chains that have consequences - some good, others well...

There's a bible verse (in Galatians)  that I've often wondered about. It's about someone who faces up to a challenge and with God's help meets it head on, but is then told to keep standing. In fact it says "and having done all, stand" - in other words make the tackle and then get back on your feet and be at the ready!

The instruction "move away tackler" is a massive hint to avoid compromise, to keep the game flowing. After all, when you think about it, you're only in play when you're back on your feet. Now,if I'm smart (and quick enough), after I've made the tackle, by getting back on my feet, I actually become first defender.

Life throws us challenges every day. We have to rise to the challenge and battle through. But we all know, its often after we have been at our strongest or tried our hardest, that we are at our most vulnerable. How many times have we seen a team get caught on the counter attack, just after they have scored?

So the verse finds an expanation and I'm confronted with a daily choice.

As I face my daily challenges head on, I have to recognise my responsibility as an attacker and as a defender. I need to make a positive decision to get back on my feet, rejoin the game and become first defender...of all that I value most.

Both success and tiredness can leave us wide open to compromise -thats just the time we need to hear the call "move away tackler!"

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Spatial Awareness

Isn't it funny watching young kids play a team sport for the first time?

Its classic "herd mentality" - everyone charging around the pitch in a mass of players.

As skill levels rise, one or two may move into space and yell at the herd for a pass or a throw - they stand out because they're the ones who can spot a gap or an opportunity.

The better someone becomes at a given sport, the more they become spatially aware:

* aware of what's going on around them,
* where team members are
* where the play is going next and
* where the gaps are

Another characteristics that grows alongside spatial aware is a sense of timing.

As a coach, one of the most difficult things to convince athletes at any level is "you always have more time than you think".

Awareness and timing are two key elements in developing excellence in anything - business, sport and of course in relationships too.

I've lost count of the times... this week... when the timing of something I've said or done has been at odds with what's really happening.

Sometimes we want to rush in where angels fear to tread, when taking time to reflect and become aware of God's presence can be more helpful to us.

The bible helpfully illustrates this in a man called Jacob. He was so caught up with his own issues that he abandoned awareness and timing. At one point he had to admit: "God was here and I didn't perceive it"

How aware are we that God is actually here, in our busy, often herd like lives?
Take the time to develop spiritual as well as spatial awareness - it can really help your sense of timing...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Crouch Touch Pause Engage

With the 2011 Rugby World Cup now only weeks away and warm up games in full swing, I wanted to post a rugby themed blog. 

As an ex-forward I journeyed from the back row of the scrum to end my career as a prop. Back then when a scrum was set, teams simply smashed into each other on the refs signal - crunch (that's going to hurt in the morning).

Today the referee is required to use the following instruction: 

Crouch - the front rows crouch in a set position
Touch - each of the prop forwards reaches out and touches the shoulder of his opposite number
Pause - there's a momentary pause - the length determined by the referee
Engage - on this command the front rows come together and conflict resumes!

Reflecting on what is a great sport and the sheer physicality involved today I'm reminded of the hits we take in life sometimes and the times when we have to press forward against tough circumstances or experiences.

I'm also reminded that there are moments in which things stop momentarily and it is at those points that the illustration from Rugby is apt. At the point of breakdown in play, the game is reset by a scrum and the referees instructions Crouch touch pause engage.

As a man of faith I believe that God can use those momentary pauses in the thick of things to help us reset to re-engage with life. The bible has some great advice when it says "be humble before God and at the right time he will lift you up" - for me that's the "crouch". There's more advice in the Psalms when we are advised to "be still and know exactly who God is" - for me that's my "touch" phase - reaching out to know that there is someone there who is also reaching out to me. 

Then there's the part that no player wants a referee to be too long about - the "pause". I have to constantly remind myself that this phase is at the referee's discretion and requires patience on my part. Sometimes the "engage" doesn't come straight away from God and I am learning patience. But when it comes, I know that the timing is right and that I have the signal to proceed. 

I've had to learn that to engage, I have to crouch before someone with the authority I need, reach out to discover that God is there and then on his signal - bang, re-engage with the task in hand. A reset doesn't actually take long, but is an integral part of the game. How are you re-engaging?