After a few months of persuasion I finally managed to convince my MD that letting me write a blog where the main subject was football was a good idea.   No pressure then..

This past weekend saw the return of the world’s largest and most lucrative football league.  Love it or loathe it, it’s hard to resist the prospect of The Premier League.

Can anyone catch Mourinho’s Chelsea?  Will Manchester United’s fortunes be revived or will they crumble under Van Gaal?  What teams can beat the drop?  Will Lukaku reach his potential?  And will Neville and Carragher ever agree on anything?

From a learning & development perspective, what lessons can we take from this weekend’s return of the beautiful game?  Read below, as I tediously try to link events from this weekend’s fixtures to current challenges within L&D.

Even the most traditional organisations can change their style

Stoke look like an almost completely different outfit under Mark Hughes.  With the arrival of multiple graduates of Barcelona’s ‘La Masia’ academy and the impending arrival of Swiss superstar Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke are looking to improve on two back-to-back top 10 finishes.

Long gone are the long-ball, Rory Delap throw-in tactics of Tony Pulis and instead Stoke now opt for a more free-flowing, attractive style of football. 

Change will always be difficult to achieve, especially in an organisation with more traditional values.  What we can learn from Stoke is that Hughes has changed thingsgradually rather than drastically.  By making sensible, measured adjustments to the team, Stoke can now shake off those ‘long ball’ accusations and push on for another solid season.

We Must Make Hard Decisions

Many were surprised by Louis Van Gaal’s decision to drop goalkeeper David Da Gea ahead of Saturday’s opener against Spurs.  Hounded by constant rumours of a move to Real Madrid, Van Gaal made the bold choice to select new arrival Sergio Romero and leave Da Gea out of the squad altogether.

In the end, United came out 1-0 winners over Spurs, with Romero making a few impressive stops to keep a clean sheet. 

Sometimes the right decision can be the hardest one.  Sometimes as learning professionals we must make a difficult choice to benefit the rest of the team.  

A group of individuals can perform as a team

Quiqe Flores become the fifth manager inside of 12 months to take charge of Watford at Saturday’s opener against Everton.   Not only that, Watford have recruited an incredible 10 players to bolster the side that won promotion from the Championship last season, many of whom made their Premier League debuts on Saturday.

An impressive performance, Watford were unfortunate not to come out victors, with the match finishing 2-2 at Goodison Park.

It is an intimidating prospect working with a group individuals you’ve never met before, especially on a high-stakes project.  Yet Watford showed us an example of what can be achieved with good communication, effective organisation and a dash of creativity.

Failure to adjust can have consequences

Arguably the shock of the weekend came at the Emirates, where West Ham beat Arsenal 2-0.  Despite having over 62% of the possession and 22 shots on goal, Arsenal failed to beat the deadlock and West Ham were rewarded for their high work rate.

One of the criticisms commonly leveraged at Arsenal is their failure to adjust their style of play to meet that of their opposition.  Whilst it may be admirable that the Gunners chose to play free-flowing, attractive football, some may argue that it costs them points and ultimately trophies. 

In the L&D sphere, failing to adjust and respond to the needs of the learner can have similar consequences.  Learner behaviour, learning technologies and learning styles are always evolving.  It is up to us be flexible with our tactics. 

There’s Nothing Wrong with a Bit of Pressure

After losing 6-1 at the Britannia Stadium on the final day of last season, and losing prize asset Raheem Sterling to Man City for a staggering £49m, it’s safe to say Brendan Rodgers must have been a tad apprehensive ahead of Saturday’s game.   With a team full of new faces and an expensive gamble in £32m Christian Benteke, many had tipped Rodgers team for a miserable start.

Yet Liveprool managed to dig in and adapt to handle a dangerous looking Stoke team.  The high-pressure tactics of Suarez-era Liveprool were absent.  Rodgers and his team adjusted perfectly to counteract Stoke and were rewarded by Coutinho’s long range scorcher to give them the win.

Rodgers and his team showed that there is nothing wrong with a bit of pressure.  Working out of your comfort zone often brings out the best in people and encourages them to perform to a higher level. 

Giving Youth a Chance

Reece Oxford’s excellent debut against Arsenal was probably the biggest talking point of the weekend.  The 16 year-old become the 2nd youngest player in Premier League history and put in a stellar performance in a great win for West Ham.

We’re now moving past Generation Y and soon it will be Generation Z entering the workplace.   Placing trust in youth is vital for the future of any learning function.  They are the future managers and leaders of tomorrow and bring new ideas to the table.

What other L&D lessons can we learn from football and others sports in general?  Thoughts, feedback and opinion very welcome.  

Posted by: Nick Ramsay