For 15 years I wore my football boots more often than my slippers. The pitch was home. In heat, rain, and snow. I liked practice on Wednesday nights with floodlights on. We all did.
Football brought me together with some dudes I’d probably never spoken to in my entire life. Tall Clark Kents, small Frodos. Daffing Jim Carreys and very Silent Bobs.
On the pitch, we were all equal. A demilitarized zone. Conflicts were addressed there and then. Direct conversation. Good and bad. Fist bump and raw language. Shouting. Never personal though. Who went personal, went to the showers immediately.
When we played garbage in a match, our coach would say so during half time. “That’s garbage guys.” Direct. Blunt analysis would follow. Solutions offered. “Block the left fullback. Press the 6. Get behind their defensive line.”
All would engage – the coach, and the players. Identify the problem. Find solutions. Not every time had we been on the same page. You could imagine, Frodo Baggins arguing with Clark Kent.
But when the ref blew the whistle to end half time, we all got up from the wooden benches. Out of the player’s cabin. On the pitch. And blocked the left fullback, pressed the 6, got behind the defensive line. At least we tried. Frodos and Clark Kents.
After the match we had beers. (We were older then.) When we won, we cheered. When we lost, less so. But we never blamed each other.
The other week I talked to a Frodo from back then. Who is much closer to a Clark Kent now. He told me what that cabin moments meant to his former Frodo-me. Arguing, fighting inside, but stepping up as a team then. Made him grow like a magic potion. Injected self-confidence.
This player’s cabin culture.
Direct language. Address the problem. Find solutions. Argue, fight about it. But when the whistle goes: get out as one team, and get it done altogether. No blaming. Beers later.
That’s how you grow a Clark Kent from a Frodo.