Finding the ‘Sweet Spot’
I’ve recently had another wonderful experience with the South Australian School for Visually Impaired. As part of their block of soccer lessons with the Football Federation of S.A they had the opportunity to meet and even play soccer with one of Australia’s greatest soccer players, Tim Cahill. Tim was in Adelaide promoting his new book, Legacy. As I stood watching Tim with the blindfold on, totally immersed in the experience of playing blind soccer with the visually impaired kids I genuinely had moments where I forgot that I was watching one of Australia’s most famous athletes.
I found myself going through a mini thought process all in the space of about 30 minutes. Firstly, I was filled with total admiration for these kids who showed such courage with their fearless runs to get the ball. Then I found myself witnessing the tables turning and watching a famous sportsman being inspired by a group of children rather than the other way around. Finally I began reflecting on the reasons that we actually play sport in the first place. Whilst I had the benefit of WATCHING with my eyes (a benefit most of the participating kids don’t get to experience) it was actually the FEELINGS that the experience generated that had the biggest impact on me.
I’ll come back to the kids at SASVI and Tim later but this idea of the feelings having more impact than the actual seeing with my eyes got me thinking about all the sports I have played and what it was about playing these sports that gave me the most pleasure. When I worked my way beyond the scoring of goals, winning premierships, mateships, travel, coaching, I found the most powerful yet simplest pleasure came from hitting the ‘sweet spot’.
In cricket when you hit the ball from the meat of the bat and it goes exactly where you intended, that is hitting the ‘sweet spot’. No vibrations through the handle, no frustrations just pure simple pleasure, if only for a millisecond. In tennis, hitting that serve or forehand right in the middle of the strings, feeling as though the racket is just an extension of your arm and watching the ball hit the court exactly where intended, that’s hitting the ‘sweet spot’. In basketball, watching the ball as it leaves your hands and makes that ‘swish’ sound as it goes through the hoop and hits nothing but net, that is hitting the ‘sweet spot’. In Australian Football, dropping the ball onto your foot, feeling it grace your laces and then watching it spin backwards straight as an arrow towards the target, that is hitting the ‘sweet spot’.
Whilst we might usually only reflect on the result of hitting the ‘sweet spot’ ie hitting a boundary or a clear winner, landing the 3 pointer or scoring a goal it’s the actual feeling that we get when hitting it that keeps us going back for more. That instant feeling of satisfaction and pleasure that seems to flood our senses for that split second inspires us and forces us to seek the feeling again and again.
We don’t need to see to experience the ‘sweet spot’ in sport. In fact that ‘sweet spot’ doesn’t discriminate or limit itself to able bodied people or just to the professionals and world champions. Anyone can feel it! The kids from SASVI feel it when they play sport. That is why they run for that ball not knowing for sure that they won’t have a collision or bump into another player. Their desire for the FEELING of that ‘sweet spot’ is possibly stronger than most. Courage sure kicks in as they pursue that feeling.
The ‘sweet spot’ isn’t just limited to sport though. There are ‘sweet spots’ all around us and the amazing thing is we can actually help others experience a ‘sweet spot’ through the way we make them feel. When we teach, coach, lead, manage or parent how many times do we come away from a conversation or a meeting or just time with others and feel like we’ve hit that ‘sweet spot’?
More importantly, how often do people leave the presence of our company feeling like THEY’VE hit the ‘sweet spot’?
How do our words and our actions create ‘sweet spots’ for those around us? Not every word has to inspire, not every response needs to be a suggestion. They have their place and can certainly generate feelings associated with the ‘sweet spot’ through an ‘Aha’ moment but perhaps just listening or being present could generate the same? Perhaps the absence of criticism or judgement is enough?
Just like on the sports field, we don’t and won’t always hit the ‘sweet spot’. It’s our pursuit and the joining in on other’s pursuits to create those ‘sweet spot’ opportunities that keeps us going back for more.
As coaches, teachers, parents there are few things more rewarding than witnessing our young people hit their ‘sweet spots’ in life.
Where will your next ‘sweet spot’ moment be?