Sporting Success – How Teams Use Spiritual Principles

I love football season.

I’m a keen supporter and love watching how good games unfold. High up in the stands, I can see the set plays taking place and I have a deep appreciation for all the planning and preparation that’s involved in success.


As I watch interviews with the coaches and players, I’ve become aware that good teams base their success upon using spiritual principles in a particularly practical way.  It’s not really surprising – all success has a basis in practical spirituality, I’ve found.  And I think “if they can do it, everyone can use these same principles”.  Here’s a few I notice:

  1. The focus is always on the higher success rather than individual glory. The team success is what’s important and each person involved in the team accepts that that’s the higher goal to which their life is dedicated.  The matters of individual glory and “what about me?” recede into the background, such that players can accept the personal sacrifices that might be needed for the higher goal to be achieved.
  2. Teams seek continuous quality improvement rather than rest on their laurels. My team has won 3 premierships in a row.  The coach says “we have to get better in 2016 if we’re to compete with the best this year”.  Each week, the team reviews the videotapes of the latest game to look for ways to improve.   There’s an atmosphere of continuing to grow in competence
  3. Practice, practice, practice. Teams recognise that it takes dedicated work to develop mastery and that that mastery is revealed most under pressure.   Good teams welcome the pressure of tough matches for that is their opportunity to show what they really know and what they can really do.
  4. Celebrate success. On the field, when a goal is scored, the team really celebrates well.  Milestones are particularly important, such as a new player’s first goal, when teammates run from all over the ground to share congratulations.  And the celebrations continue after the game if there’s been a win.
  5. Teams focus on what they can change/control and don’t worry about what they can’t. They don’t focus primarily on what the opposition might be doing but on their own game style and how to optimise that.
  6. Each crisis is seen as an opportunity, not a danger. The Chinese word for “crisis” contains two characters – danger and opportunity.  A crisis, then, is a “dangerous opportunity”.  Good teams choose opportunity.  Star players injured?  It’s a great opportunity for newcomers to step up.  Playing against the best side?  It’s a great time to see how good we are as a team.
  7. There’s accountability to the group – the power of confession. Players & coaches who have had a poor day on or off the field speak of this to their team and accept responsibility for their actions.  There’s courage to face what’s happened and be honest about that’s gone wrong.  This creates a strong bond of intimacy, of family, amongst the team.
  8. There’s a focus on discovering a way to do better next time – the power of repentance. How can we get back on track?   What will we do now?   Rather than dwelling on the past, teams focus on the now and what they’ll do next.
  9. Following the confession of mistakes and repentance, forgiveness is offered, creating the feeling of a fresh start upon which the team can go forward.
  10. Resilience. There’s a focus on having another go and bouncing back.  There’s always next week, the next challenge, and should there have been a setback, the team can let go of the past and focus on rebounding.  And history shows that teams are often most successful at these times.

WOW – what a list!   Isn’t it amazing how practical spirituality can be?  Yes, I know good teams also involve a lot of discipline, “have to’s”, such as training schedules along with diet and lifestyle requirements.  These make for good physical capacity but they don’t make for team success.  It’s the spiritual principles in action that do that.  Is it any wonder that players often report their team experience as the best time of their life?

How might our lives be different if we adopted these principles in our own lives?  How might YOU be different? That’s a question worth asking, don’t you think?

Here’s to the ease in Life

Dr Andrew Horwood

Program Director, Riverdell Spiritual Centre

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