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

Monday, 22 April 2013

When your game plan falls apart

I recently went to watch a rugby match in a local county league. The match had significance for a number of reasons:
  •  it would potentially secure promotion for one of the teams
  • I knew a couple of the guys playing in the match
  • it was the first time in years I had watched minor league sport
The team I went to watch won the match and were promoted. However, as a spectacle, it was poor in quality and certainly wasn't a great advert for the game. Despite their clear technical and physical superiority, the promotion seekers somehow lost their focus. They spent large parts of the game commenting on the demerits of the referee and complaining. Once they had lost focus, their standards started to slide. The rapidly deteriorating quality of their decision making, made their opponents seem more competent. This boosted opposition confidence, which compounded the title chasers  problems and led to handling errors and mistakes. In the end, the team were arguing amongst themselves. Despite the scoreline, they were behaving like losers.

Now, you could rightly argue "they won". But for me, this game became an illustration of the importance of focusing on the right things and, doing those "right things" right. Despite the win, it was a shambolic game that could have been so much better. In short, it wasn't a very good advert for the game and had the potential to dissuade the neutral from engaging with the sport.  How often do we allow our standards to slip and descend into a caricature of what we should be? How do others perceive the faith we profess based on what they see of us?

As they lost focus, the volume of handling errors and poor decision making increased alarmingly. When we lose sight of the main thing, we begin to bring into sight things that either don't matter, are peripheral or are simply wrong.

Despite the team being capable of blowing the opposition away, the match started to slip away from them.  However, there was a pivotal moment that altered the outcome. The game needed someone to refocus. Someone had to take it back by the scruff of the neck. Someone had to ignore the crowd decrying every refereeing decision. Someone had to get the team playing the right game in the right areas of the field. Just as the game was about to descend into a farce, one player took things into his own hands and stepped up to take responsibility. His intervention made the difference. He refocused and changed the outcome of the game. In the end, the team ran out comfortable winners, but, it was a poor game and one that deserves to be forgotten.

I'm sure there are times we have just scraped through or have felt our approach has been poor. It's worth analysing what goes on when we take our eyes of the main thing. What causes us to shift focus? Offence? Decisions going against us? Jibes from the sidelines, even from people who are supposed to be supporting us? The intervention of other people into "our space"? Things not going to our exact game plan? We can be so easily distracted And we've seen what loss of focus can do.

At those times, its worth remembering that we can refocus.  The bible has some great advice: Run with perseverance the course marked out for you, keeping your eyes focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for joy set before him, endured.. In other words; if we have decided to be a follower, a disciple, one who runs after Jesus the trailblazer of our faith, we need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on him as our focus. Science has belatedly discovered that what we focus our minds on has a strong physiological impact.  The object of our focus impacts the neural pathways in our brains and actually influences our motor functioning ability. Putting it a different way, if we focus on the wrong things, then our game will fall apart! Conversely, focusing on the right thing and following the right lead...