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....

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Friday, 16 March 2012

Line Speed & Keeping Shape

In sport, having a solid defence is a key element of building a strong team and creating a platform from which to launch attacks. There is little point in making great scores if the back door leaks away any advantage you've worked for. I guess that's true in life, business and in church scenarios. However, being overly defence minded can have a detrimental impact on the ability to think expansively and there, we must make sure our approach is a balanced one. Simply defending not to lose makes for a dull game. Life, business and faith without adventure is just marking time.

Recently, I was watching a 7 a side rugby tournament. It was fast and furious, with tries and tackles, pace and power. It was exciting stuff. The ability of teams to score was directly related to how the other team organised their defence and managed their line. One side in particular stood out. They were using their line of defence as a way of putting the team in possession of the ball on the back foot. The were forcing errors and turning over possession. How did they do it? Line speed and keeping their shape.

Rugby is a sport in which to advance, the ball has to initially travel backwards - this is true of an individual pass (it cant go forward) and from a set piece such as a lineout or a scrum. The ball travels backwards from the line of play and only when it has crossed its starting position has a team crossed the "gain line".

A cleverly organised defence, who are quick off the mark, can attack the space between and effectively force the other team backwards. This can be used to repel an attack and to take back lost ground, even though the "defending" team do not have possession. When line speed is combined with keeping the defensive shape, would be attackers have no gaps to exploit and have to play laterally (flat). That makes them an easier target to hit in a tackle. So, defending isn't negative or neutral. With shape and line speed, it can be a force for creating momentum and retaking possession.

Watching the team working together for each other was impressive. In fact, they were the team of the tournament, going on to become champions. There's something great, something noble about men standing together, with a common purpose, working as a team. There is a sense of camaraderie, being part of something bigger, a sense of achievement. There is good humour and a sense of we all stand or fall together. Working and striving together for a purpose can be the struggle, the trial, the crucible in which heroes are forged. A man without purpose is aimless. A man with purpose has a sense of identity and dignity.

The bible has some interesting observations about line speed and defensive shapes.

In times not dissimilar to today, a special envoy called Ezekiel noted that in his generation, when God was looking for men to stand up and be counted, no one could be found who would rise to the challenge of forming a defensive line for the sake of the vulnerable or those who had yet to reach their potential. There were gaps everywhere, breaches in the defensive line and the vulnerable were being preyed on by those who were exploiting the gaps. What an indictment.

Thankfully in other generations, the call was heeded. To each generation, God's call to men is the same. "Who will stand in the gap for the land?" Being a defender often means putting yourself on the line for the sake of another. Who wouldn't want the safe keeping of the vulnerable or to create the safety in which others can grow to fulfil their potential. But is doesn't just happen. The call is still the same in this generation - come on, "who will stand in the gap?" Who is prepared to work the line?