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

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Piano Players and Piano Shifters

An old, Welsh, coaching friend of mine once described a rugby team as being made up of "piano players and piano shifters".

A few of the younger lads looked puzzled, until the Celtic philosopher revealed: "the grunt and hard work comes from the piano shifting forwards, the fancy moves, running at angles, comes from the backs, the piano players".

The art of the armchair philosopher can be fickle, as he often yelled across the pitch "move you lumps of lard, or, get stuck in you fairies".

The fact of the matter is, a successful team needs a combination of skills, techniques, flair, power and vision. Every position in a team has purpose and every player that runs out onto the field of play has a purpose in the match.

The same is true in life: "every man has purpose and there is a purpose for every man". Our life mission is to find our purpose and live it out. The bible has a window into the purpose of the man's man, Jesus Christ. "for this purpose, Christ was revealed, to destroy the life wrecking schemes of the enemy" - now that's a massive purpose.

No matter where he is from, how he entered this world, no man is a mistake. Every man has intrinsic worth and is here for a reason. Our purpose may differ dramatically and for that reason, perhaps through ignorance, fear or even pride, we are inclined to place value on the known, or seemingly more important. But, I have learned, there is nobility in the purpose a man discovers and is diligent in.

Again there is some guidance from the bible when it notes - one part of a body can't say to another, I don't need you. It would look very strange if we were all one organ or limb! So, we need piano players and piano shifters in life.

The key is in understanding firstly, as a person I have purpose. Then, in discovering I have a
purpose, to work it out in the everyday. My purpose may not be the same as yours. So, let's be diligent in our own purpose and resolve to recognise the nobility of purpose in others. Let us, wherever we can, help our fellow man find his purpose, looking down on none, but valuing all.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Turnover Ball - Regaining Posession

Can you remember that one kid when you were growing up? The kid who would take something that belonged to you and tease you with your own stuff, making out he was going to give it back to you, then snatching it away at the last second.

But can you remember the feeling when you took back what was rightly yours and perhaps with more force than that one kid was expecting! Taking possession back feels good, right?

In sport, making a tackle, then recovering the ball, regaining ground lost to the opposition and especially re-taking the lead, feels good and gives any player, the team and the watching crowd a great lift.

In rugby union, turnover ball does exactly that. With my playing days over, I sit in the crowd or watch  from the touchline, but I still get a buzz when our lads counter ruck, or emerge from a maul with the ball the opposition took in. It's the same when we make a tackle, get back up and re-take the ball. Its almost like taking your stuff back from that one kid!

You see, when you retake possession, you've then regained options. Options that were not available to you when you don't have possession. I love it in American Football, after the celebrations, they literally make a massive team switch from defensive to offensive. When you regain possession - you re-gain options.

Life is the same. Its a harsh feeling when you feel you've lost something - a friendship that somehow has broken down, that loss of spark in a relationship, feelings of mistrust. Life can throw some tough passes at you too: a redundancy, financial hard times or simply that feeling of being sucked into a repeat spiral. Even if life is great, there is always new ground to be taken. New options to explore.

The bible has a great insight, when the man's man, Jesus Christ says "the thief comes to rob, steal and destroy" (we can understand that), but then he goes on to say "but I am come that you might have life - and that, to its fullest expression".There are so many people I know and perhaps even you and I too, that feel they have lost something of what life could or should be.Well, maybe its time for some turnover ball?

No one is saying re-taking possession is easy - after all, winning turnover ball requires a commitment to the struggle, sometimes absorbing the impact. But in the face of the effort required, let's remember, the man's man has committed to helping us make that turnover - if we will ask him. Just for a second, think about how it could feel: when you regain possession, it opens up options. Then, why not ask for his help?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Wearing my hero's socks!

Back in the days of flared trousers and tank-tops I was lucky enough to get on a school trip to watch the touring All Blacks rugby side. Taken in by the incredible pace and power of the game, I determined I would play like the team I had just seen and in particular, the great, All Blacks captain Graham Mourie.

Before my next game, I went to a local sports shop and bought my own All Blacks......socks. Black with three white hoops around the top. I discarded my school rugby socks, broke the rules and wore my heroes socks. It worked. Over the season, I became the top try scoring forward. I became the only player in an entire season to score a try against an all conquering, regional championship team as they swept every other team aside, without conceding a single try. My achievment even got a mention in Rugby World magazine. I was the English Graham Mourie - well, I was when I was wearing his socks.

Life, like sport, is filled with heroes and villains and I suspect no hero is perfect. However, as teenager, I saw something in someone else that inspired me to reach further. It wasn't really the socks. If it had been, they would have been no more than a luck charm or me following some kind of pre-match ritual. No, it was seeing someone I admired, doing something that I could actually see myself doing. That was inspiration. Something I saw, experienced, that called to something inside of me. The socks were just the way I expressed affinity with my hero.

There is an interesting account in the bible, of a time when a nation's leaders failed to give it the direction it so desperately needed. Sound familiar? For the record, there is a list of those responsible. Not surprisingly, the list contains politicians, religious leaders and the security forces. However, right at the top of the list, was an unexpected group: heroes! On a list of the great, the good and the powerful, the primary responsibility for taking a lead fell to the heroes and the question was asked; where are they?

Now, we may not feel very heroic and we may think the things we do are mundane. But as I look back to my formative years, my hero was simply someone who inspired me to reach beyond my immediate grasp, to travel further, to climb higher. I saw a "hero" and decided to have a go too. I may not have achieved the status of sporting legend, but who knows where I would have stopped or parked up, without the inspiration of a hero.

There's a generation looking for heroes. Sons looking for fathers, the lost looking for hope, captives longing to be liberated from the mundane. Where are the heroes of today? They have just read this blog.
So come on, its time to get our heroes socks out from the back of the drawer and go inspire a generation....

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Crossing the Gain Line

If you want to move forward, be honest, taking a step back is not usually our first thought.

I know for sure that I have stood toe-to-toe, or gone head to head, maintaining my position, not budging, because I believed I was right. Looking back, I now realise, all I did was prove a point without making progress or developing relationally.

Rugby is one of those odd sports that to go forward, the ball has to travel backwards. The motion of passing the ball is a prime example - you must make sure the line of travel is not in front of you. In set play (a scrum or a lineout), the ball can actually travel 10-15m or more, back from the point at which the play started. Once the ball has travelled forward and past the point it started from, the team has crossed the gain line.

There is method in the apparent madness - by passing the ball slightly behind you, the next man can run onto the ball at pace and build momentum.

American Football is another exampe of the ball travelling back to ultimately go forward. The ball pops back from the line of scrimmage and to the quarterback (provided he isn't sacked) who launches it forward to a receiver who is running at pace.

Taking a leap requires momentum to bridge a gap - that requires us to back up and take a run at our target. Yet in life, in our realtionships we all too often crash away at the same old same old, making little difference, damaging what we are trying so hard not to.

Taking a step back not only allows us to regain momentum, but it often opens up another route forward - passing a ball along a line of players moving at pace, opens up options that are not available by simply crashing into the man in front of you every time you gain possession.

The bible has an interesting insight into the mindset of the man of men: Jesus Christ. It describes his attitude to the incredibly daunting prosepct he faced, after he had been tried and condemned to die - despite his innocence. He knew what was ahead of him and yet he is described as confronting death with a sense of what lay beyond it - "for the experience of knowing what lay beyond his personal loss, for others, he endured the cross, not considering the shame attached to it". On the face of it, the cross looked like a massive backward step and yet three days later and ever since, the impact of what he did is still being felt.

In what seemed like a massive step backwards, paying the ultimate price made it possible for anyone, through faith, to be propelled across a line, they couldn't have crossed alone. It was the ultimate stepping back to reach for the gain line.

The essence of team is about sacrificing self interest for the greater good. The nature of true relationship is about sacrificing self interest for the greater good. Maybe it's worth thinking about taking a step back, shifting a position, to cross your personal gain line.