What We Can All Learn From the US Soccer Team's Success in the World CupJune 25th, 2010 | Small Business,Small Business Tips | 2 Comments »
Most of the country is still talking about the US’s last minute victory against Algeria on Wednesday (well except for New York who just cant quit Lebron James). I have watched a lot of sports in my life – so much that it drives my parents and my wife crazy- but that game may have been one of the most exciting sports moment that I have ever experienced. Then again the bar is not that high for me since I am a Cleveland sports fan. I digress. Wednesday’s match was so big that there are reports that the game set all sorts of internet traffic records and it brought Twitter to its knees right after Landon Donovan knocked in the game winner in the 91st minute of the game.
Now the US team that came into the World Cup was criticized and heavily scrutinized for a number of reasons. People said that the team had not jelled, there was questions about the leadership potential of key veterans, this was the coach’s first time to the World Cup and parts of the team were huge question marks like the entire defensive unit. So you can say there were lots of concerns and doubts about this US team. So what did this team go on to accomplish over the last few weeks: merely going undefeated in their group play that included the mighty English team, clawing back from dead after being behind from a nearly insurmountable 2-0 deficit to Slovenia, overcoming a terrible blown call that should have given them a monumental and historic victory against Slovenia and then finally winning their group after coming back from yet another blown call against Algeria when they scored in the final minutes of the soccer match of the century (at least for us Americans and our fans!).
The US team has a long way to go as they have just reached the “knock-out round.” Nevertheless, there are so many lessons learned from this team and the group of US players that are applicable to business, startups and life in general. These lessons are born out of how the US team played, were coached, executed their game plans and relentlessly played each game. Here are a few that come to mind.
1) Have a Strategy
2) Make Sure that Strategy is Flexible
3) Put Yourself & Your Team Members in the Right Positions to Succeed
4) When Needed, Substitute in Team Members to Help Drive Change in the Strategy
5) At All Times, Make Sure Your Leaders are in a Position to Create Opportunities
6) When You Get Behind, Be Super Resilient and Do Not Lose Faith
7) Even if You Initially Fail, Keep Trying and Taking Chances (i.e. keep shooting the ball!)
8. Move On & Keep Pushing Ahead Because Some Calls Do Not Go Your Way
9. Trust in Your Teammates
10. Always Play with the Passion Like Its Your Last Game
11. Even After a Big Win, Get Up & Get Ready for the Next Game
Now on the other side of the spectrum of the US soccer team is our friends in France. Their World Cup was a widely publicized disaster. The French team literally did the opposite of everything on the above list and were the antithesis of the US team in that they had serious infighting, their coach and players got into fights, they played with no energy and were a bunch of selfish malcontents that went out of the tournament in grand fashion with loss to the much lower rated host country South Africa. Their follies could be the subject of an entirely separate post on more lessons learned, but I point out the French team’s approach just to draw the contrast of what is also possible on the other side of the pitch.
So as you watch the rest of the World Cup (and especially tomorrow for the US v Ghana match)- see what other lessons you learn. Now that the “knock out” stage has started, the stakes will be higher and I am sure we will be able to learn a few things about leadership, strategy and team execution when teams, players and coaches are under far greater pressure than the first round games.
Please tell us what did you learn from the first round games?