For the past three years I’ve been coaching Elston United Under 18s, our village’s junior football team (or ‘soccer’ for our subscribers in the US). The lads played their last game together on Sunday in the final of the County Cup, losing 2-1 to Hucknall Town, the second year running that they were the cup runners-up.

The lads were obviously disappointed with the result, as was I, but as a youth football coach for the past 15-years or so I’ve learned to focus on the performance rather than the result. The key question I ask myself is whether the players are improving as footballers or not.

To be honest, I used to become frustrated if players weren’t developing as quickly as I’d like but changed my attitude after I listened to Sir Clive Woodward, the former England rugby player and coach, at an FA football conference a few years’ ago.

During the session, Sir Clive said that at the top level of sport ‘talent alone is not enough’. Attitude, he argued is far more important and went onto describe two types of players, ‘sponges’ who have a thirst to continually learn, develop and improve, and ‘rocks’ who believe they already know it all and are pretty much un-coachable.

It’s true. I can’t think of a successful leadership team or organisation that is not underpinned by a learning mindset. While, on its own, it’s not a guarantee of success, without it the arrogance and fixed mindsets of ‘rocks’ will, over time, weaken the performance of even the best businesses.

I’ve been fortunate that Elston United Under 18s was a team of ‘sponges’, rather than ‘rocks’. As a result, its performances and results improved each year.

But what about the organisation that you lead? Is it weighed down by ‘rocks’ or is it lifted up and driven by ‘sponges’ who have created a growth mindset and a passion for relentless learning and improvement?


Off The Record: England 2 Columbia 0 by Kirsty MacColl

You lied about your status, you lied about your life,

You forgot you had three children, you forgot you have a wife,

Now it’s England 2 Columbia 0,

And I know just how those Columbian’s feel.