This week’s focus: I coach a talented Under 12 football team. When I say coach, what I mean is that, during training sessions, I put cones out (and collect them again), distribute bibs (and collect them again) and sort out any issues with boots. I call myself the team’s Head of Laces! The real coach is Nick, who has done a truly excellent job of developing the boys’ skills and abilities. So much so, in fact, that they now play in a national league, as well as against professional academies.
One of the things that Nick has been able to educate the boys about has been the importance of finding and exploiting spaces and gaps. When you’re on the ball, he will tell the lads, you shouldn’t be focused on beating your man, as that will lead you to moving the ball into a high-traffic area where everything becomes a struggle and a scrum (or scrimmage for my US friends!). Instead, you should be focused on moving the ball into the available spaces and gaps, whether that is through dribbling or passing, so that you can more easily create goal-scoring opportunities.
It’s the same in other ball sports, including rugby, hockey, NFL, basketball and tennis. The key to success in all these games is an ability to find and exploit the spaces and gaps that become available on the pitch or court.
It’s also the same in business. The most successful companies are those that are able to identify and exploit the spaces in their markets where new opportunities can be found. The problem is that too many businesses and too many business leaders are solely focused on the equivalent of ‘beating their man’ – doing a bit better than their competitors – where they are inevitably slowed down in these high-traffic areas and are unable to see the spaces where new opportunities are possible.
What about you and your organisation? Are you focusing on the high-traffic areas where your competitors are playing, to the exclusion of all other activities, or are you also working hard to spot and exploit the spaces and gaps in your market and developing new growth opportunities?
Off The Record: Give Him a Ball (And a Yard of Grass) by Sultans of Ping FC
The lyrics of this punk band’s great song are based on the words of the legendary Nottingham Forest football manager, Brian Clough, and his description of his match-winning winger, John Robertson.
Give him a ball and a yard of grass
He’ll give you a move and a perfect pass
Give him a ball and a yard of space
He’ll give you a move with Godly grace
© Stuart Cross 2018. All rights reserved.