Recently I came across some statistics from the 2012 6 Nations Rugby Tournament. One stat that stood out from the others was the Top 10 Ball Carriers. At this point a definition would be useful and I am grateful to Opta Sport (www.optasports.com) for the following: "...a player touching the ball has deemed to make a carry if they have made an obvious attempt to go forward and attack the opposition with the ball in hand"...
Now I like the sound of that - a carrier is someone who makes a conscious decision to engage with the opposition to make progress by overcoming their resistance. That's what marks out a carrier. A willingness to take possession and advance, knowing there will be resistance, but going ahead anyway.
The stats showed there were players who made more than 50 and up to 60 carries across the games they played in. The top carriers had their hands on the ball and were advancing against the opposition something like 13 or 14 times in every game. Wow. Assuming 50% of possession - that's a personal, physical encounter every 3 minutes when your team is in possession - now that's a lot as there are 14 other players on your team. Allowing for setting scrums, lineouts, penalty kicks, all counting the clock down, ball carriers become pivotal players when you have the ball.
One team had 5 players in the top 10 and accounted for something like 240 carries. It's clear that these are the "go to" players when you want to make progress. Of course 5 players cannot win a game on their own, but these 5 certainly influenced the results and made game changing contributions.
So why focus on ball carriers? They epitomise "taking the game" to the opposition and gaining ground.The have the following characteristics:
- they have courage and are committed - to step up to the task and engage
- they have to have strength and skill - to make a break and keep the ball alive
They need to be supplied with the ball and the support of their team mates once they have created the momentum the team was looking for. Every team needs carriers. In fact, every relationship, family, team, business and church or other organisation needs carriers - the "go to" people who can make things happen. The problem is they are in short supply. 5 men across 80 minutes assisted by their 10 team mates can make a difference, but they may not always win the game. In the 24hour, 365 day tussle we call life, carriers are in even shorter supply.
The bible has an interesting insight into carriers or "go to" people. There is an account of the various groups of men that made up an army that had been assembled for a campaign. In amongst the fighting men was a small but very special group of warriors - they were described as men who "understood the times and knew what to do" - they were the "go to" people, the equivalent of our ball carriers. They were part of a much bigger force, but their perception of what was going on around them and their accumulated life wisdom and insight marked them out. Knowing what to do when others don't know what to do makes you a "go to" person. Having an appreciation of what is taking place when others are ignorant of circumstances or are being swept helplessly along by life's pressures marks you out as a "go to" person. These men were and still are in short supply, but are needed more so than ever.
A ball carrier is marked out because he makes a decision to step forward and engage. Being prepared to step up and be counted has a price tag attached. It will mean exposure to contact and a willingness to take the knocks. But without carriers - "those who understand the times and know what to do", in order to gain momentum and take ground, unlocking otherwise closed off routes for advancing - teams, families, relationships, businesses, churches and society at large will make little progress. Everyone needs a ball carrier at some point, but are we prepared to be the carriers that are in short supply? Understanding the times and knowing what to do requires commitment and courage, strength and skill - but if we will step up to the mark, there will be suppliers and supporters backing up. The need is for carriers...