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What leaders can learn from a game of lacrosse

3 min read


Kathy O’Reilly is a 2011 graduate of The College of New Jersey, where she was head captain of the women’s club lacrosse team. During her last semester in college, she did a co-op at Johnson and Johnson and, shortly after graduation, transitioned into a full-time role at J&J in the supply chain field.

Tweet, tweet! You are a lacrosse player driving to goal when you are fouled by a defender. The referee positions you on the 8-meter mark for a free position shot on goal. The defender who fouled you is moved 4 meters to your rear, and the only thing that stands between your shot and the back of the net is the other team’s goal keeper. In the moments before the referee blows her whistle to start the play, you run through a number of factors and strategies in your head before selecting one that will lead to your goal.

The factors that require consideration and the strategies that must be reviewed prior to taking a free position shot on the lacrosse field are similar to those a colleague would consider when leading a project in the business world.

Every great project begins with a good idea. It is the manner in which the idea is executed that requires thought and consideration. This is the area where lacrosse lessons can influence leadership.

Know your boundaries

It is important to understand your scope, both in your role and in your new project. If your project is not in alignment with your current role, you may overstep your boundaries and impose on one or more of your colleagues.

On the lacrosse field, there is a possibility that you will overshoot the cage and lose possession of the ball, so it is essential to remain aware of your surroundings and use the field space appropriately.

Locating your boundaries and understanding where you fit into your organization is important to maintaining a positive reputation in the workplace.

Angle your attack

As an offensive lacrosse player taking a free position shot, you need to carefully select the angle at which you will approach the goal and shoot on goal. If the goal keeper blocks your shot, it means your strategy for achieving the desired result is flawed.

Since a free position is typically a one-on-one situation, the shooter needs to consider the goalie’s strengths and weaknesses. Depending on these factors — essentially, the feasibility that your results can be achieved — you may need to adjust your method to progressing through your project.

Tag team your approach

Although a free position shot is typically a one-on-one situation between the shooter and the goal keeper, do not hesitate to tag team your approach to achieving results. You may need to pass to a team member so they can score on goal.

Project work is teamwork. Regardless of who shoots on goal, the results benefit the entire team. Leadership is recognizing when to take the free position shot yourself and when to pass the ball to get the best possible shot on goal.

Image credit: jpbcpa, via iStockphoto