Potential Talk – What can we learn from sport in WordPress?

For a while I’ve wanted to give a talk comparing sport to my work life. There are a lot of similarities between the two. This is my pitch (Yes, intended, I like a pun). Would anyone be interested in such a talk or is it just me?

Comparing Anfield to WordCamp Europe
Comparing Anfield to WordCamp Europe

How playing and watching sport can help build a better team

I play football twice a week, and watch more than my fair share on TV.  The main reason for this is that it’s fun, and reasonably healthy.  How does my sporting experience help in the work place?  What are the transferrable skills?

One of the things I love about the WordPress community is the warmth. So many people greet each other with a big hug, even if they work for rival companies. With this in mind, I introduce Exhibit A. This is Jurgen Klopp as the final whistle signals their victory in the Champions League. Note that the first person he hugs is his opposite number, Mauricio Pochettino.

Football teams have fans, both at the stadium and on TV.  Software, including WordPress, has users (and fans).  Everyone should listen to, engage with, and provide the best experience possible, for fans and users.   

Whether it’s kicking a ball or building software, success is more likely with good teamwork and understanding.   There are key attributes that good sports teams have that can, and should, be mirrored in the workplace:

  • Work ethic
  • Technical skills
  • Communication
  • Desire
  • Training
  • Experience
  • Intelligence
  • Selflessness
  • Encouragement
  • Tactics & Strategy

This isn’t a standard WordPress talk.  It’s a little left-field (still intended).  Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and consider a fresh perspective.  Hopefully it will help people to look at things differently, but at the same time understand that something they know well can aid their everyday lives. 

Sing Songs

WordCamps have after parties, a lot of them involve karaoke. #wpkaraoke is a thing. After WordCamp Boston I went to Fenway Park to see Liverpool play Sevilla in a pre-season friendly. Watch the clip here, probably the largest #wpkaraoke ever!

You’ll Never Walk Alone at Fenway Park, July 2019

Let’s do the maths: 37K crowd, call it 36K to keep it simple. I’m guessing half have a website (18K), a third of which use WordPress, so 6,000 WordPressers singing You’ll Never Walk Alone, 30 mins after closing remarks at #wcbos. That must be a #wpkaraoke record!

Don’t take my word for it, listen to Gary Lineker

Listen to Gary Linker, ex captain of England and Golden Boot winner at the World Cup. Gary gives his tips for making it as a football player, but they are equally applicable to life in general. Some of my earliest football memories come from the 1986 World Cup. England were close to winning it, thwarted only by the brilliance of Diego Maradona, a missed header (keep your eyes open Gary!) and the “hand of God”.

At a local level, I was very good at sport. I played for the school and my local town, and not just football but also rugby, cross-country running and athletics. However, I was never, ever, good enough to carve out a professional career. It doesn’t mean that I’ve not benefited massively from playing football, and continue to do so. It’s fun, social, keeps me healthy, and has taught me a lot about how to interact and manage people.

A little more maths, could I have made it? Does it matter?

I’m too old now. Yes, I’ve finally given up the dream of playing for England and Liverpool. Please, please, stop calling Jurgen, it’s too late. But what were the odds of my making it?

Well, there are roughly 55 million people in England. Note this is England, not the whole UK as for this calculation Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland don’t count. They do in so many other beautiful and wonderful ways, so don’t be offended. 🙂

I’m a man, so let’s divide by 2. So we’re down to 27.5 million.

As pointed out, I’m too old now. This is really rough, but let’s say people live to 75 and there’s a 15 year age window when you can make it. Actually life expectancy is around 80, but I’m trying to keep this easy to follow. 75 / 15 = 5, so let’s divide by 5. We’re down to 5.5 million.

There are 20 teams in the Premier League. There’s also the Championship and other lower leagues, but I wanted to play at the top, so let’s say there are 500 top players ( 20 clubs, each have 25 in their squad). So now we’re down to 11,000. It’s not as big a number as I suspected. Maybe I should have tried harder?

Ahh, but I also wanted to play for England. Let’s not forget that. And I wanted to be a regular starter, not someone who got 1 or 2 games every now and then. Also, there are a lot of non-English players in the Liverpool team, and across the Premier League. To play for Liverpool you need to be International quality. To get into the England first team, and to have a chance of playing for Liverpool, I needed to be in the top 11 players in the country. So, 5.5 million / 11 = 500,000. That’s roughly the same population as the whole of Liverpool or Bristol. Furthermore, that’s assuming both cities were populated entirely by men of professional football age. They’d be very boring places if they were!

Population of England (Not UK)N/A55,000,000
GenderDivide by 227,500,000
Professional Age rangeDivide by 55,500,000
Players in PL (20 x 25)Divide by 50011,000
First 11 for EnglandDivide by 11500,000

Big fish, small pond, at best

In short, only a very few exceptionally talented people make it to the top. That was never going to be me. The point I’m trying to make is, don’t play sport expecting to be a top professional earning millions of pounds a year. Play sport for the love of the game. You don’t need to be Gary Lineker to benefit. We can all learn and prosper from playing sport. I have. Do take some time out to reflect on how sport can help you in your everyday and working life. You might be surprised.

Categories: Blog

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