When it comes to sports, I’m the least knowledgeable about football. I grew up watching the Chicago Cubs, Blackhawks and Bulls and pretty much understand those games. When it comes to football, I really only understand what a touch down means. Now that I live in the South, not knowing football certainly puts me at a disadvantage.
While on business in Houston, I stayed with a friend (former Chicagoan, by the way) and her family. She has three adorable sons (five-year-old twins and a 12-year-old. All three boys play football. Yes, the five year-old kindergarten twins play too. I’m not a parent, so I was surprised that they play so young. It could be a Texas thing from what I learned.
So, on the night I arrived the twins had a game and like any good friend I attended to cheer them on. Who we kidding? My friend and I really planned on talking business in the bleachers since we’re both business coaches. We were watching the clock waiting for the game to end so we could go to dinner. It appeared that the game was over but the kids were still running the ball. Overhearing our “why they still playing?” conversation, another parent said, “The coach is letting all of them run with the ball.” Ah, know we understood. Their team was comprised of kindergarteners and first graders; the first graders seem to get the ball more. What a great coach!
We see one of the twins getting the ball and he runs ten yards and we all cheer. When it was time for the other twin to get the ball, we watched in anticipation. Even I was getting into it. There he stood in position to get the ball, it was handed off to him and we all took a breath in to get ready to cheer for him and … he just stood there. Ball in hand, he didn’t move. And everyone starts yelling, “Run!!!!” He finally runs and gets about two yards. And we all laugh in the bleachers. I’m feeling like a pseudo mom at this point. It was kind of cute.
We leave the bleachers to go get the boys off the field. The boy who just stood there with the ball is so excited.
He says, “Mommy, I got to touch the ball. Did you see?”
And of course like any good mom would say, “Yes! That was awesome! Why didn’t you run when you got it?”
And he said, “I didn’t know they were going to give it to me.”
We both tried not to laugh as he ran off for the post-game team meeting and snack time with their coach. “Wow! How often do we say (or behave like) that in business?” I asked rhetorically. Opportunities (foot balls) are often right in front of us but for some reason we just didn’t expect them even though we prepared for them and even though others have helped us prepare for them. How often do we get so caught up in the moment of bright lights that we lose our vision and lose sight of the end goal? What happened that took our heads out of the game, even if for just five seconds?
Here are my key reflections and learning moments from kindergarten flag football and how you can apply them in business …
- It’s not just okay to be young/new in business; there’s an advantage to being a “kindergartener” to start young to learn and practice your skills.
- Start with the basics. You don’t need to fully tackle things in the beginning. You will always achieve something when you do things as simple as showing up, running, playing on half (vs all) of the field and grabbing a flag when you can.
- Practicing, staying focused and paying attention to directions can make or break you in business. Know up front that eventually the ball will be given to you and that you’ll need to run with it. Anticipate it because others will have expectations that you’ll follow through. More importantly if you don’t expect opportunities they may never present themselves again if you don’t take them when they come to you.
- There will always be people to cheer you on from the sidelines and in the bleachers of your life and business, including kindergartener cheerleaders, which is a whole other lesson to learn from in a future article.
- Incentives and rewards, such as post-game snacks, are great motivators. The kids at this flag football game had been conditioned to get a snack from their coach after the game. Identify your post-game “snack” and make it attainable after each game you play in business. My “snack” is an expensive purse!
- Mentors and coaches in your business are instrumental to setting you apart from everyone else. Listen to them and execute their suggestions even when they say, “Great job!!! You ran with it … eventually.” (as the coach said to the boy who didn’t run right away)
- Notice when you’re really not into or passionate about what you do. You might not be running with the ball because you’re just not interested. Know when to walk away from the game and find a new sport.
- There will always be people stronger and more experienced than you on your team or around you in business. Eventually you’ll get the opportunity to run the ball and win the game. Will you be ready for it?
By Gina Trimarco, Chief Results Officer