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Bruce Hamilton

Quality Insider

Up, Back, and Around

Learn to trust everyone on your team

Published: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 13:35

Watching the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team take the World Cup on July 5, 2015, caused me to reminisce about my short-term coaching stint of a U12 soccer team.

Before becoming a coach, I hadn’t played soccer or even watched a game, but there weren’t enough coaches in our town league, so I volunteered. After a two-week clinic for new coaches, I’d learned enough to know when I was allowed to substitute players, the meaning of “offside,” and a few other key rules. I’d even learned how to clumsily dribble and pass, but, like many other coaches, not well enough to actually teach the kids.

Fortunately for the team, however, a parent of one of the players knew John G., a local resident who at one time had played on the Portuguese national team. John seemed to know everything about soccer, from basic skills to game tactics and even strategy for the season. Beyond this, John motivated and energized the kids. His personal enthusiasm and love of the game was contagious. Whenever I would thank him for sharing his skill and experience, he’d humbly respond, “The game is the best teacher.”

“No doubt the boys are learning to play by playing, but John observes each boy’s every move, making subtle adjustments in skill and teamwork,” I thought to myself.

Practice, after all, does not make perfect; it makes permanent. John had the boys practicing dribbling, passing, and kicking the right way. Throughout the course of the season, every player improved individually, and the group of giggly 11-year-old boys became an accomplished team—not World Cup quality, but pretty darned good.

“Better teams beat better players,” John exclaimed when any player appeared to be less than selfless in his play. Along the way, by observing and listening to John, I became a better coach.

Watching the superb play by the U.S. women reminded me of one of John’s lessons, which like his other coaching tips have had direct application to my work. “Up, back, and around,” he’d shout to the field during scrimmage. “Don’t always try to beat the defender directly. If the resistance is too great, then pass the ball back to your teammate and play around the defense.” Although this tactic appeared to be “two steps forward and one step back,” it led ultimately to many goals.

So it is approaching True North. The goal does not change, but depending upon the resistance at any point we should take John’s advice and avoid forcing the play. Don’t try to change the status quo by yourself. Share with your team members, and take the change up, back, and around.

Do you trust all of your team, or do you only pass to certain team members? Let me hear from you.


About The Author

Bruce Hamilton’s picture

Bruce Hamilton

Bruce Hamilton, president of the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership (GBMP), brings hands-on experience as a manager, teacher, and change agent. Prior to GBMP, Hamilton led efforts to transform United Electric Controls Co.’s production from a traditional batch factory to a single-piece-flow environment that has become an international showcase. Hamilton has spoken internationally on lean manufacturing, employee involvement, continuous improvement, and implementing change; and he has contributed to numerous texts ranging from visual control to variety reduction. Hamilton’s blog, Old Lean Dude, is an on-going reflection on lean philosophy and practices with an emphasis on keeping good jobs close to home.