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Soccer is a game of opposites. The objectives are fundamentally opposed depending on whether a team is attacking or defending. The strategy of offense is to create time and space and the strategy of defense is to limit time and space. The best players can shift between offensive and defensive mindsets with ease.
Creation of time and space through effective dribbling, passing, movement, and positioning enables players to have options and set up opportunities to advance the ball. As creators, the players embrace possibilities and improvisation, and can effectively see space as it develops.
Limitation of time and space by players shuts down the movement of the ball and can pressure opposing players to make mistakes. As limiters, they take control of, or obstruct, space and construct barriers to its development primarily through movement and positioning.
Successful teams effectively manage the constant motion and shifting patterns of creation and limitation during a match. A team’s system of play, or architecture, is based on players effectively taking on both the creator or limiter roles. Everyone makes the effort to be adaptive and flexible as play develops, otherwise the team system breaks down or fragments. Players may be operating as a defender, or limiter, in one moment and as an attacker, or creator, the next. One must be aware of the difference in perspective in order to negotiate that split-second transition and know where to move the ball next.
The words “creator” and “limiter” are also ways to think about one’s role in an organization. Do you create or do you limit? The answer may offer clues on how to help leaders and their organizations reach their full potential. Perhaps the key is in learning to balance both mindsets.