Friday, 23 September 2011


I spent the day yesterday at the NSW State PSSA Netball finals watching 4 games. These were the best 8 of 480 NSW primary teams in a knockout that saw my daughter's team defeated in the first round. They played a consolation round and I stayed with Lauren to watch the finals.

She's expressed a desire to move up to the next level and been selected for rep netball, so while she doesn't always like it, I try to analyse what's happening in the play - who stepped up, what works or doesn't - and we try to figure out what it takes to raise their game.

It's a process we see in elite sports a lot, but in business it's essential, too. I'm talking netball here, but it doesn't require genius to apply the same observations in business - maybe your business.

The first observation was that, having reached the top 8 teams, the best teams had no weak players; there was consistency and depth of talent. For example, while having a tall girl (woman!) in the goal circle who could reliably put it in worked when you had scrappy competition and a couple of players on your team that could get the ball to her, this didn't take them to the next level.

We saw at lower levels big girls who were aggressive and pushed, but didn't have real skills, knocked out before the top 8.

The players who trained at the winning level worked together and could use advanced techniques like leaping to land on one foot and again to the other foot and leap on and throw the ball to a team player already in the right position, and cover a third of the court distance without being called for 'stepping'. It takes trust, co-ordination and skill to do this.

But most of all, in the best teams, all the players had already decided to review and discard limiting behaviours. I saw no sulking when the second best team was losing. Many of the teams had a high level of play and there were lots of rep and state players in some teams, but even this was not enough. The winning team members all had a standard of play in their sights, and came from regions where, based on the results coming into the finals, had serious contenders to test themselves against in their own backyard.

And the winning team? There were no 11 year olds that looked like 17 year old women, as we saw in some teams earlier in the competition. They were little girls from the Hunter Valley. There was no pushing, and while they were fast, there was an economy of effort born of outstanding skill levels and teamwork. It made me wonder what all of the physicality and stress was about in our first game, and the importance of being in a team where everyone had decided to step up.

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