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, 12 July 2012

The Tackle Count

"..You can't simply wait for the opposition to make a mistake to regain possession. You have to stop their progress and defend your ground and if you want to get the ball back, you have to tackle with an attack mindset.."

Physically demanding, requiring a sense of timing and technical skill, making a tackle in rugby union doesn't automatically give you possession of the ball. But making a good tackle will:
  • stop or slow the advance of the opposition
  • prevent encroachment into your territory
  • set up the possibility of a turnover
  • bring an opponent down
In life, we frequently talk about tackling issues head on in an attempt to resolve something, to make progress or clear a hurdle on our journey to reaching a goal. But hitting something head on can have consequences. I remember playing in one match against a team made up predominantly of coal miners - I decided to tackle one of their lock forwards head on. He was about 6 foot 5 inches tall (about 1.96m). Going down on one knee as he approached, I launched him over my shoulder - but he smashed my face in the process. I took him down but I paid the price. There are times when a more subtle approach is required and I guess that is true in life too. 

Here are a few key elements to tackling that are worth considering in the context of life, relationships, business, serving others:
  • it sounds obvious, but unlike American football where blocking is legitimate, in rugby you can only tackle the player in possession of the ball - knowing what you are going to be tackling is pretty important, as we too often tackle the wrong things and frequently in the wrong order
  • your line of approach and point of impact are key to an effective tackle - how we approach something and the point at which we engage are often fundamental to the outcome of our interactions
  • you cannot tackle a player who is off the ground, you can't use a straight arm tackle, tackle a player too high or tip a player beyond the horizontal (spear tackles are illegal) - there are ways of handling people if we have to tackle important, sensitive or difficult issues.
All too often as men, we are prepared to commit to the physicality of the tackle on the field of play and in life scenarios, we all too readily fly into conflict situations. But there are some things in life that are even more important than the oval shaped ball. How often do we shy away from addressing relational issues? Alternatively, we fly into them in the same way we would tackle an opponent, when a more subtle approach is required.

Sometimes, making one tackle isn't enough. We can make a tackle and almost stand back in admiration at what we've just achieved, only to see our opponent get up and carry on or offload the ball to a team mate, exploiting a space we have failed to defend. Tackling is such an essential part of the game that to relent is like conceding a game. Recently, I looked into the number of tackles made during an 80 minute game of rugby and discovered some valuable insights.

In the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, Australia beat the South African springboks in a tough, physical encounter. It was a game in which the Aussies made an incredible 147 tackles. South Africa had the bulk of the possession, but the Wallabies were resolute in their game plan. Tackle after tackle. Tackle, get up, make another tackle. Sometimes two man tackling was required to pull down their giant opponents. 147 tackles.

Now something fascinating comes out of the stats when you look closer. Generally there is a correlation between the tackle count and the number of penalties conceded. In other words, in the contact area, players hold on, don't make an effort to roll away and commit an array of other offences. Match analysts tell us a penalty is conceded every 8.3 tackles. In the Aussie game, that ratio went out to one penalty for every 24.5 tackles. The Aussies only gave away 6 penalties in the entire match and only two were in potential points scoring positions for South Africa. In the second half the ratio was an astonishing 42.5 to 1 - only one penalty given away for every 42.5 tackles. One word summed up the approach that day. Discipline.

The tackle count - their commitment to halting the opposition with an attacking mindset and discipline - their level of concentration, physical courage in the contact area and game awareness won the day. What an illustration. Sometimes we have to get back up and keep tackling our way out of tight corners, whilst maintaining the discipline that prevents us from compromise; taking short cuts, perhaps bending the rules slightly, taking the law into our own hands, not quite being truthful in relationships - building the potential penalty count against our credibility.

Knowing how, when and what to tackle and having the commitment and discipline to work through issues could be the difference between conceding or regaining ground.