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The Sideline Blog

Just as sports players come to the sideline for rest and guidance, this blog is meant to provide you some insight and guidance as you explore your Strengths journey.

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  • Writer's pictureChad T. Ahern

Coaching for Phases of Life

It’s always interesting to me when my athletic interests, a place commonly associated with coaching, intersect with my professional coaching.

Recently, as part of earning my US Soccer Grassroots Coaching Certification, I was reminded of how best to think about how the game of soccer.

​It’s a game of four distinct but fluid phases – attacking, team transitioning to defense when you lose the ball, defending, and regaining the ball to begin the attack.

What I find intriguing is that our lives and our work often follow a similar, fluid pattern. Sometimes we have it all together and are actively “attacking” life or work projects. Other times, we are playing “defense” and trying to start again.

Just like on the soccer field, coaching can help; regardless of which phase you’re in.

Transitioning to Defense / Losing the Ball

We each encounter setbacks in life.

On a personal level, it could be getting fired from a job you love(d), a break-up. losing a leader you admired, or a family loss. It could also be a simple as running out of energy and making a conscious choice to move to something different. In our work teams, it could be losing an important account, or seeing team members leave or forced out of the company,

Any of these can throw us for a loop. These moment can lead to us to question our abilities to handle any number of situations. We’ve lost the ball and we need it back.

Strengths coaching in these situations can help you and/or your team identify and celebrate what talents you already have and how you can use them to slow the onslaught.


Once the setbacks start it can often feel like they just keep coming. In soccer, a quick counter attack by an opposing team might leave you feeling like your in a game of 1 vs 10. At work, all of a sudden you find your project list growing by the minute.

Playing defense in soccer is an intricate balance of individual patience and team fortitude. Sometimes you know you’re out-matched (1 vs. 2 or 1 vs. 3) and all you can do is delay the attack to give your teammates time to recover and help. Once you’ve achieved the delay, then it’s about the team’s collective effort to deny the other team further opportunity. It takes a deep, shared understanding of your fellow players’ talents and abilities to coordinate an effective defense.

Strengths coaching for teams that are on their heels can provide the opportunity re-evaluate how a team’s workload is distributed; matching team member’s personal talents with the work that needs to get done. It’s also a time to determine if certain partnerships could be more effective in addressing certain projects. By coming together like a condensing defensive corps you increase the chances to reverse course and take the ball back.

Transitioning to Offense / Gaining the Ball

You’ve staved off the attack and you’re back in control. In soccer, this is the moment most coaches encourage the fastest counter attack possible. For your workplace, this is an optimal time to accelerate progress. The strengths partnerships and work distribution you identified while playing defense can now paying big dividends.

Strengths coaching for teams experiencing this acceleration might seem unnecessary, but nothing could be further from reality. Just as soccer midfielders might receive the ball from full backs to advance it to the strikers; similar partnerships and handoffs need to happen on your team. A strengths coach can help you to further refine roles and identify new advantageous partnerships.


Now that you’re in control and determining the pace of play, what’s next?

Complacent teams often quickly find themselves without the ball again. The best soccer teams continue to explore new ways to move the ball down the field and put it in the goal. Do you set up a crossing pass, or just drive it down the center?

In the same way a great soccer coach prepares their players to quickly think through options on-the-fly, a great strengths coach can prepare you or your work team to think about how to apply your talents to situations you haven’t encountered yet.

So…where are you on the field we call life?

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