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, 24 July 2012

The Space Beyond the Ball

Seeing beyond the current space you're in to the possibilities that lie beyond is called vision. Going on to inhabit the beyond and make things happen is called application and that takes graft and determination.

Unrealised vision is simply aspiration. The power that drives change is the conversion of vision into reality on the ground.

When still a club coach in Auckland, Graham Henry the victorious Rugby World Cup 2011 coach of the New Zealand All Blacks was asked for a key coaching tip. His response was direct and to the point - "get over the gain line in the first phase".

In rugby terms that means taking possession beyond the point at which a phase of play started before it breaks down again. For example, if a player is tackled, his team are expected to recycle the ball and progress past the point of the tackle and over the gain line, before another tackle stops the advance.

Aspirational? No, because what marks Henry out as a coach is his ability to think about the game, its rules, the role of players on and off the ball and use each as a component to deliver something tactically different. He is deliberate about it, it doesn't just happen.

After the successful 2011 RWC campaign Henry commented "We want quick ball in New Zealand and so we concentrate on dominating the space beyond the ball carrier. We want our supporting players to get under the opposition and to move them backwards. We flood past the ball to create good possession for our strike runners" (The Guardian, Sunday 29-01-12).

Now that's thought through. Practical. It's every player knowing what they have to do to "get across the gain line in the first phase". It's not just great vision. It's application on the ground. If you drive the opposition back from the breakdown, you have already created the space and opportunity to get past the gain line before you even begin to move the ball again.

So successful are the thought through, tactical elements of the All Black's game that it looks like second nature. In fact, when you watch great teams, what started as a vision and was fleshed out on the training ground until it became second nature, becomes endemic in the team and is seen by onlookers and emerging new players as part and parcel of what a winning team does - new players coming into the squad simply follow suit. The reality is, it started somewhere. It was worked through with an initial group of players, but then became the norm. Delivering quick ball from the breakdown by taking the space beyond the ball is now part of All Black game play.

Now there's a great principle at work here - what becomes second nature becomes the norm, what becomes the norm is transmitted seamlesssly to peers and the next generation of players coming through. But here's the key, "every generational shift starts with a deliberate decision".

The bible has an interesting insight into how successive generations learn and understand the significance of what is important. The illustration talks about the strength and resiliance that comes from knowing God - the principle at work was written about by the warrior king, David. He put it this way: ..."examine closely the way things are structured, look at the strength that is built into them,  look at the detail and show it to the generation that is following you - model it, be it".... It's about being deliberate in thinking about what is important and how to demonstrate it.

We may be looking to introduce a change. We may be looking at our own behaviours in an attempt to improve our relationships in business, in serving people or perhaps even in our closest relationships - but remember, there is a difference between aspiration and real vision that paves the way for the next step - application. The transition from vision to reality is the critical phase, but it's where so many either fear to tread or stumble. But that transition is crucial to change becoming second nature.

Working on relationships is not perhaps the most natural thing that men lean towards. All too often we let even our core relationships drift or allow things happen by default - despite the fact that we so easily plan events, schedule tasks, review and change processes. Given people are at the centre of events, task or processes, we cannot afford to alllow relationships to develop by default.

Understanding the dynamics of change and being deliberate in our thinking can be the key to making the right adjustments, at the right time and in the right way. Relationships and the people we interact with are after all at the heart of winning teams on the pitch, in business, in areas of service and in families.  Are we allowing things to happen to us by default or are we being deliberate about change?

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