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December 13, 2016
A View on Teamwork from the Soccer Sidelines
I have always found soccer to be boring. Sorry, soccer fans. I grew up a football fan. It’s structured. It’s fast-paced. There’s a clock I can count on. There’s a score whose number gets in the double digits. But as I have watched my two young daughters take up the game, I’ve learned to appreciate soccer and the lessons about teamwork that they have learned. Especially from my HR point of view. Here’s what they (and I) have learned:

Soccer is a team sport, but kudos to the goalie in particular. The pressure on that position is huge. It’s a big role to play and takes a brave and confident player who can ride out the ups and downs, maintain composure and focus, and not crumble under pressure. In life, whether it’s in your family, your circle of friends, your coworkers — isn’t that who we all want to be? The person who’s the rock, the go-to, the person who can save the day? Be the goalie.  

Play to the whistle. Don’t watch the clock. You can never count on it to be over despite what your watch says. Keep going until you are told to stop.
Work as a team. This is obvious and every sport has its playbooks, but in soccer I find it especially inspiring to watch. The passing, the orchestration. Everyone knows their place, their role in the play. Relationships play out silently in footwork. A glance, a gesture, are all it takes to communicate among teammates. So be that team — get to know your co-workers well. Their mannerisms, their style, the role they like to play, their contributions to the team — their footwork. As for yourself — show your teammates that you have the ball, that you can pass it with fluidity, that you can finish someone else’s plays, and that when the pressure is on, you can deliver!

Be there for one another, win or lose. Strong teams win as a team and they lose as a team. They don’t blame the goalie or the player who missed the perfect pass. Find people you can rely on, who will support you, who won’t point fingers, who realize that life is a team sport and we should never have to play alone.

Don’t underestimate the value of chemistry. You either have it or you don’t. Do you click, do you mesh, do you have a rapport? You don’t always need to agree, but you need to have mutual trust and respect.

Winning isn’t everything. Some of the biggest and most important lessons of my life and career happened when I was down. Winning is amazing, but losing gives perspective. It will make you hungry and it makes you see things differently and analyze and scrutinize and work harder. It forces you to look inside and learn lessons about yourself that sometimes you wish you didn’t learn. In the end it makes you better. 

Have fun. The celebration, the exhilaration, the thrill of the victories — enjoy that. Be present in those moments. Cherish them. They pass too quickly.

I am sure there are other lessons that you can glean from the “beautiful game,” you just need to keep watching.

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Kristen Metzger is managing partner, people and culture, at MEC North America.
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