Shrovetide Football is a lesson to us all…

No-one is quite sure when the tradition of Shrovetide Football started in Ashbourne, but many believe it was before the mists rose from the dawn of time (or in the middle ages anyway). Whatever the history, the game is a legendary contest between two sides, played throughout the Derbyshire town over Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.  The BBC do excellent local coverage…

The sides are named Up’Ards and Down’Ards and anyone can join in. All you have to do is work out whether you were born north (Up’Ard) or south (Down’Ard) of the Henmore Brook, which runs through the town. There is no limit on numbers, no strip, basic rules and an all-out assault on the ball. But why am I telling you this? I’m a Mountaineer and Speaker, not a football player. Firstly, I love tradition and the history of my local area, but mainly it is because this physical assault of a game brings out so many things which I see in the outdoor and business world. Confused? Read on…

How many times have I climbed a mountain with a team I have never met before? How many projects have I been involved in with people of differing backgrounds and experience? Plenty. In both instances we need to deliver our goals, usually in short timespans and under great pressure. Let’s look again at that ball, surrounded by hundreds of people, playing in any weather, in streets, fields and rivers, assessing skills and tactics, and all with a massive desire to succeed. They will endure driving snow, wade through waist deep water, run down tunnels and play in pitch darkness all for the game. I wonder how many business leaders would want qualities like these in their staff? I don’t mean wading through rivers physically, but the sheer determination to work, non-stop though adversity for the common goal. If you could bottle it, industry would pay thousands.

There are in injuries of course, but I’ve never seen anything major. Here’s where a sensible approach to risk comes in. If you choose to play, then expect to get bruised, pushed, wet, muddy and your clothes pulled and ripped. If you don’t fancy that, don’t play. Anyone seen punching or kicking is dragged out and told very sternly to stop. Anyone who plays like a child, is treated like a child (Premiership Footballers take note!) The Health and Safety culture has not crept in and long may it remain that way. The event is marshalled and observed, any damage repaired and the town goes onto the next year. Climbing is very similar, as we have to take risks, but be must accept them if we want to be in the mountains. That doesn’t mean we are foolhardy (I retreated from a melting ice route in Scotland only a few weeks ago). Business and Industry must take risks, perhaps in new ideas, money or markets if they are to succeed. They cannot stand still in this modern age if they are to survive.

The camaraderie surrounding the game is legendary. Families have played for generations, with any player who goals (scores) being given the ball to keep. I’ve known companies where generations of the same family worked and their commitment was huge. This is where family businesses succeed. Few major industries have such commitment now as people hop from job to job more than ever before. Are they fairly rewarded I wonder? I’ve heard experts stand on stage and proclaim that money is the best way to motivate your staff. I have one word to answer that – Rubbish! It is a motivator, but only one of many. Being fairly treated, working in an environment which is open, works for all and where people feel appreciated is worth much more. To play Shrovetide Football, people give up their own time, get filthy, cold and exhausted, all for the love of the game.

Business leaders take note…

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