Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sun-Tzu and the Art of Football

by Bill Doughty
Imagine how unthinkable it would be in World War II... that someday the United States would be playing a World Cup soccer final against former enemy Japan... in a stadium in Germany!
It’s proof that the world can coexist when the values of freedom, democracy and a commitment to peace are fully embraced.
Such a peaceful ideal was completely unthinkable to most people in China more than 2,200 years ago during the Warring States period.  That’s when “Master Sun,” Sun-Tzu, wrote his classic, The Art of Warfare, one of the key works on the Navy Professional Reading Program reading list.  Sun-Tzu’s insights about discipline, organization, planning and contingencies apply equally to military, business and sports, including football/soccer.  His tactics about terrain, troop deployment and the art of surprise still apply in modern military strategic thinking.
Ed Halter’s intriguingly titled From Sun-Tzu to Xbox discusses the art of war from an electronic video game perspective, showing how strategy and tactics literally play out.
To read Sun-Tzu’s The Art of Warfare is to attempt to think from a different non-Western perspective -- not only Chinese, but also classical Chinese.  It’s best if the reader tries to understand the concept of Yin-Yang balance and harmony, a world view less linear and more contextual.  It requires open-minded reasoning and empathy.
New discoveries in the 1970s of texts written on bamboo slats removed from tombs expanded Sun-Tzu’s known works.
Various translations of The Art of Warfare are available, so the first question my librarian asked when I told her what I was reading was, “which translation?”  I found Roger T. Ames's work, which included a lot of history and commentary, to be profound and thought-provoking.
Here’s what Sun-Tzu says about leadership:
The traits of the true commander are: wisdom, humanity, respect, integrity, courage, and dignity.  With his wisdom he humbles the enemy, with his humanity he draws the people near to him, with his respect he recruits men of talent and character, with his integrity he makes good on his rewards, with his courage he raises the morale of his men, and with his dignity he unifies his command.
These ideals for coaches or world leaders are alive and well, especially in an evolved modern world.
Even though a world at peace may have seemed impossible in early human history -- in China, Greece and Rome -- and even 70 years ago in Europe and the Pacific, not to mention in the Middle East today, the study of world philosophy leads one to contemplate a different way.
Can we have collaboration and competition over confrontation and destruction?
FIFA and the World Cup -- Japan vs. United States in Germany, and winning -- shows us these insights:  people can make a difference once they are committed to building partnerships as the tao, pathway, toward peace.
Individuals, from team captains to goalies, from parents to politicians, can make a difference for themselves, their teams, their country and the world.  It’s proof of the strength of those American, human values of freedom, democracy and a commitment to peace. 
Everyone wins when that’s the goal.
Japan's 2011 World Cup winning women's team.

1 comment:

Thomas Huynh said...

Sun Tzu's Art of War can not only be applied to soccer but also life overall as well!

Thomas Huynh, founder