Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Gets You Excited?

These are exciting times for two of my favorite soccer teams, at least as far as I'm concerned.

The U.S. Men's soccer team played its first match of the season last week and four of the starters and seven players altogether earned their first caps (a "cap" is the term used for a full national team appearance, for all you soccer-challenged readers). One of them, Zach Loyd,  a 23 year-old outside back, was named Man of the Match. Another, Teal Bunbury, a 20 year-old forward, scored the only goal for the Yanks in a 1-1 draw with Chile.

Teal Bunbury.

By my unofficial count, 12 players on the U.S. squad who saw action in the match were 23 years old or younger. Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, and many other National Team veterans were nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, in Lancashire, Blackburn Rovers have just concluded the January transfer window by adding four players, one of whom is a former team member (forward Roque Santa Cruz, a Paraguayan international), an American defensive midfielder (Jermaine Jones) and two young offensive players (Mauro Formica, 22, from Newell's Old Boys -- is that a great club name or what? and Ruben Rochina, 19, from one of my other favorite clubs, Barcelona).

Ruben Rochina.

Rovers' new owners, Venky's, an Indian poultry company, made noises about trying to sign David Beckham or Ronaldinho to "strengthen" the team but whether they were truly interested in either, or whether they were just trying to realize some media profit for their recent investment, fortunately neither will wear the blue and white halves.

No doubt there are casual fans of both the U.S. team and Rovers who would have welcomed the veterans back to or into their squads. But not me.

It's probably the coach in me, but nothing is more exciting to me than the introduction of young and (hopefully) talented players to a team. The opportunity to mold a group of individuals into a winning, entertaining team is much more interesting than watching some "big name" past his prime earn a last few paychecks.

The same is true with our national team.  I'm sure Howard, Donovan, Dempsey et al. will still play a big part in the near future, but it's way more exciting to get a glimpse of what 2014 and beyond may look like than trotting them out for another friendly.

The introduction of young talent to an established team isn't something that happens all that often in the business world. After all, the goal there is to keep valuable employees for a working lifetime, which is normally considerably longer than an athlete's viable economic life.

That doesn't mean, however, that management and the employees themselves can't try to inject a breath of the unusual or extraordinary into the workplace. Team meetings, lunches, social events, or bonus or other incentive plans based on unique criteria are all ways that you can try to give your workplace a jolt of newness, even when the roster doesn't change as dramatically as it did recently for two of my favorite teams.

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