school of sport with TIM MIDDLETON
IN a previous article we noted how the great Dutch soccer player, Johan Cruyff, lamented that “playing simple football is the hardest thing there is”
So, let us make soccer, and indeed all sport, as simple as possible.
We do not need to make it complicated, with tracts of tactics and techniques or dozens of drills and details; we do not need pundits using exaggerated hieroglyphics or technical graphics to explain what teams must do to win. Let us just go back to basics and keep it simple.
Three words are all that are required, that is all. Three words. Get. Give. Go. It is that simple.
A team cannot score, and therefore cannot win, without the ball so the obvious first point to learn is to get the ball. Members of the team must get the ball if they are to do anything. We can simplify that task down further to two different methods. Firstly, we must get the ball from our team-mate.
In other words, whenever one of our team-mates has the ball we need to get in a position where we can get the ball from them, should they see such a pass as being productive. We make ourselves available for a pass. We do not hide, pause or stop, but we move to a position where we can get the ball.
Then there are two ways we may get a pass, one direct to us and one for us to run on to. We make ourselves available to get either pass. We are there to help our team-mates.
Secondly, we must get the ball from the opposition. Once again, there are two simple ways of getting the ball from the opposition — we can either tackle them or we can intercept their passes to their own team-mates.
Once we have got the ball, we should have one simple aim in mind and that is to give the ball.
It might seem strange that our first thought should be to get rid of what we have been trying to get, but that is precisely what we should be thinking. Our first thought should be to look for a pass to a team-mate who may be in a better position than we are but who was not in a position to receive the ball from the previous player. Our natural instinct generally (especially as youngsters) is to run with the ball, to dribble with it, to take on opponents.
The fact is, however, the ball can travel faster by being passed as opposed to being dribbled at our feet. And by going faster, it is giving the opposition less time to be in position to defend it. So, we must give the ball once we have got it. The ideal direction to give it is forward (straight) but that may not always be possible so we may have to go sideways (square) before going forward. Forward, ultimately, is where we want to go.
The third simple point to note is that once we have got the ball and then given the ball we then go for the return pass. We do not stand back and admire our work and think we have done our job. We must go once again to get in a position where we may receive the ball from our team-mate who now has the ball. We do not simply do something once and then rest or cease; we repeat the process if we are going to be a good and valued member of the team.
It should come as no great surprise that the same simple points about sport apply to life. In short, all we have to do is help our children to realise that all they have to do, to reach their goal, is to get the ball, give the ball and go for the return, whatever the “ball” in their life might be. We can apply it firstly to education.
Children need to be available and in a position to receive education, whether it is from supporting people or from opposing influences — they need to be willing to tackle difficult issues with sensible logic and intercept opposing arguments with clear insight, in order to move forward; once they have this education, they need to learn to share it, to pass it on, to give it to others (for it is through sharing it that we understand what we are dealing with), who can do something with it; then they need to be ready to go for more, to make themselves available again, to be in an open space to receive more. That is how they will reach their goal.
We do exams, we face more exams, then work situations, then another year — we do not stop. The same principles apply to our children’s ambitions, promotions, selections or even questions. Get, give, go — goal!
So, sport is really pretty simple, is it not? Just get the ball; give the ball; go for the return in order to achieve the goal. How much harder can it be? Why would we want to complicate it anymore? And as we have seen in so many ways, sport teaches our children greatly about life. Life quite simply comes down to this: get, give, go — goal! Simple! Follow that and they can be as great as Johan Cruyff.
Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org