I spend a fair bit of time watching sports on TV, but I don’t consider any of that time to be wasted.
Okay, I can see how sports viewing can be addictive and limiting, especially for die hard supporters who want their teams to win at all costs, but for people who love and understand a game watching the best players in the world do their thing can be inspiring and educational.
It’s art; like ballet or modern dance except the leaps, spins and pirouettes are not planned out beforehand, they just happen when the time is right and usually there is a ball involved and opponents who are dead keen on making things as difficult as possible.
Finely tuned human bodies performing at their best; pure instinct. Well that’s what I’ve always thought, anyway. Last weekend, however, I watched a bit of magic and then after the game listened to the comments of Stoke striker Peter Crouch, the football player who had pulled what may be the goal of the season out of his … hat; and what he had to say forced me to reassess that pure instinct thing.
Here’s what happened:
The Stoke keeper gathered the ball in his area and then booted it well across the midfield line where Crouch headed on to teammate Jermaine Pennant. The winger headed the ball directly back to Crouch and the gangling forward who was at least 25 metres from goal controlled the ball with his not-too-impressive chest, tapped the ball up with the inside of his right foot and then lashed a perfect strike over England keeper Joe Hart into the top far corner of the Manchester City net.
It was beautiful; awe-inspiring, and it appeared to just happen naturally without the slightest bit of forethought – but according to Crouch, that was not the case.
“When the ball dropped, I tried to pop it up and try a volley technique.
I do it a lot and practice it, though they don’t always fly in like that!” Hum, that means he had anticipated the possibility that one day he would have a chance to score from that far out and he had spent hours and hours practicing the technique he would need when the opportunity presented itself.
Not quite so unrehearsed as I had previously suspected, but just as impressive… maybe even more so, and it’s good to know these guys are doing a bit more than just playing one or two games a week to earn all that money.
So now I understand these moments of magic don’t just happen by themselves. An awful lot of practice takes place first, then they just happen, and if we are smart we might be able to apply that lesson to something in our own lives.
If we want to be good at something – a physical skill like playing a sport or an instrument, a relationship skill like not getting mad or a money-making skill like selling insurance – we should identify the techniques we need to develop and work on them until they just happen by themselves when the chips are down. Yeah, I think I learned something important watching that Stoke Manchester City game; it definitely wasn’t a waste of time.