The England Team, mastery and the “Near Win”


I admit it – I watched The Football. Not all of it, of course, but certainly the England matches. It has been refreshing and inspiring to watch this young, relatively inexperienced team in action under the tutelage of Gareth Southgate (who, as a friend of mine tweeted the other day, is the kind of person you would happily introduce to your mum). I say “refreshing” because unlike previous England world cup squads, this young team seems largely devoid of artifice and ego. There are no strutting peacocks here (recall David Beckham and co in their designer suits….) nor the entourage of WAGS, there for the shopping, the champers and the paparazzi. As many commentators have observed, this young England team is different – lean, keen and focussed, with a clear appetite for success. This is evidently due in no small part to the calm, composed leadership of Gareth Southgate, who chooses to encourage rather than berate, praise rather than criticise, thus establishing a supportive environment for the team to train and compete. The positive effect of this “kinder” management style has been evident throughout the matches England have played

But they lost the semi final match, you cry. Yes, but just look at what they have gained – and that “loss” in the semi final against Croatia should not be regarded as a “failure”. To get to the last four in the World Cup is a huge achievement in itself; add to that, the fact that Croatia fielded a team which included some of the top players in the world. What a privilege to play against such players!

The result of the match against Croatia should offer Gareth Southgate and the team much food for thought and reflection, which, if done right, will enable this young team to develop and grow and, hopefully, achieve greater success in the Euro championships and the next World Cup in 2022.

In ‘The Rise’, her excellent book on the search for mastery, Sarah Lewis explores the notion of the “near win” (rather than the “near miss”) as instrumental to achieving success.

A near win shifts our view of the landscape. It can turn future goals, which we tend to envision at a distance, into more proximate events….The near win changes our focus to consider how we plan to reach what lies in our sights, but out of reach.

Success motivates us, but a near win can propel us in an ongoing quest.

Sarah Lewis

To have reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, and to have played so confidently and largely successfully in the matches leading to it, the England team should enjoy the glow of their near win and use it to spur them to greater victories. The road to mastery is paved with setbacks, but if we are prepared to embrace them, they carve the way for further endeavour, achievement and fulfilment of goals.

This growth-mindset attitude applies as much to sportspeople as to musicians.

Further reading

The Success in Failure

A Passionate Pursuit

How the psychology of the England team could change your life


(image from ITV)