Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Of Goalies and Leaders: fewer, yet more

Maybe you're a World Cup fan. I am. I love soccer (football in the global sense of the word) because no matter where in the world you go, soccer is there. It's a simple game, so kids in Nepal play it in an open field with a rolled up ball of duct tape, while upper class private school children in England join in the same game on a perfectly groomed pitch. The globalism and egalitarianism of it is what makes the sport great. Poor countries can walk away with the cup, and do, as often as the rich.

Maybe you're a Stanley Cup fan. I'm that too. I love watching hockey because skating is an art form I never learned. I watch with awe as the blade, puck, and stick conspire to create the artistry of the game. And this year, it's Canada vs. USA, which adds to the friendly border rivalry.

What soccer and hockey share in common is the position of goalie. There's no more important position. For example, Edmonton Oilers lost their goalie to a tragic knee injury with six minutes left in game 1 of the Stanley Cup. Since then, they've been outscored 6 to 0.

Being a goalie and being a leader seem similar many ways. The goalie is the last line of defense, and as such that means he's called upon when things are desperate. Every line of defense has failed and now the only thing standing between the goal and the enemy offender is you. You don't know when you'll be called upon to be at peak form and make the save. In fact, for probably 95% of the game, the goalie is watching. But it's that other 5% or 2% or 1% that's so critical - that's when all your skills, all your training, all your wisdom come to the forefront and you either do or don't do. The goalie is called upon rarely, but take him out of the action and (as the results from the Edmonton Oilers proves) disaster unfolds.

Leadership is similar. When things are functioning at their peak, there are people in front of the leader, mobilized and trained to make decisions, implement activities, react to crises. But things aren't always functioning at their peak because of the realities of change, and sickness, and maturity, and personal issues, and dysfunction, and all the rest that comes from being fallen people living in a fallen world. And when things break down, leadership is needed. And it is in those moments that we either do or don't do - that we rise to the occasion or flounder - that we make a save or lose a goal. Making decisions and taking action is a leadership responsibility

In soccer, goalies encounter the ball less than any other player on the field - but their encounters are more significant, because when they fail, the failure is a collapse that could cost the cup. Who wants to be a goalie? Who wants to be a leader?


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