Risk Assessing and “The Beautiful Game”

Risks come to fruition quickly. Situations arise then escalate in no time at all. Suddenly your school or organization is fodder for headlines. Nothing will eliminate risk entirely; in order to move forward successfully risks must be properly identified, evaluated and mitigated.

In sports, there are few better examples of risk/reward, risk awareness and risk mitigation than the game of soccer. To the unappreciative eye, soccer is a low-scoring bore. To those of us who grew up playing and continued playing into adulthood, soccer is indeed, “The Beautiful Game.” Good play at midfield is applauded, exceptional defense is celebrated and outstanding goalkeeping raises the roof. Apart from the obvious physical hazards, what about other risks? Situations develop quickly. A player must assess risk then take immediate action. A school faces similar circumstances because of the great number of moving parts. Similar to good play at midfield, a school’s appropriate risk mitigation may go unnoticed to the casual observer, but the importance of properly managing risk is essential.

The USWNT recently won the 2015 world cup in Canada. They are an extraordinary team and an extraordinary group of women. Was their play risk adverse, or were they willing to take risks and at the same time be fully aware of the perils?

A school environment can be compared to a soccer match because without adequate planning and risk identification, negative situations can arise quickly. And it is important an independent third party facilitate the risk assessment process to ensure a free exchange of ideas and be able to provide unencumbered results.

Similar to play on the soccer field, running a school can be viewed as a graduated scale of risk. Fiduciary responsibilities, campus security and accreditation are among some of the highest risk areas. The medium to low risk areas should not be ignored; these should also be fully documented on a scale of importance.

In soccer for example, the following scale demonstrates risk: the forward positions (low risk), midfield (moderate to high risk), defense (high risk), the goalkeeper (crazy high risk). In every minute of a match, each player is faced with situations where risk must be considered immediately then action taken. However, the result of risk-taking is not equally disseminated among all positions.

A risk taken by a player in the forward position, if unsuccessful, may result in an offside call, a foul, or a missed goal opportunity. The downside of these risks is nominal. The midfield position risk-taking is more dangerous. Considering that midfield play is where many matches are won and lost, risk assessing is important. A defensive blunder at midfield may cause a breakaway. A missed opportunity to properly identify an open space could prevent your team from mounting a potential goal-scoring attack. The risks at midfield are much higher than those in the forward positions.

The defense faces the highest risks on the field. A missed defensive assignment can result in a goal, and a foul can result in a goal-scoring set piece, or worse.

Risk assessing is vital in the defensive end of the field and it has to happen in a hurry. In the World Cup semi-final match, the unfortunate own-goal by the UK defender Laura Bassett is a good example. In the match against Japan, she took a risk, which was instinctive and simply reflex, but it resulted in a UK loss and it forced them into the third place match.

The risks facing the goalkeeper are extraordinarily high. There is little nuance between success and failure. Conditions must be assessed quickly and the action taken must be swift and deliberate. For instance, in the final World Cup match, where play was well away from the goal, the Japanese keeper came off her line for only a moment. This is when Carli Lloyd scored the astounding goal from midfield. The keeper took a risk, unaware of the possible consequences, perhaps even unaware that she was taking a risk at all.

There are also times when reaction or reflex can be a hazard when confronting a negative situation in a school environment. To avoid an ‘own-goal’ in your school setting, planning is critical; risks must be identified, evaluated and appropriate action plans created to mitigate those risks. And what about situations where it appears there is little to no risk at all – a new venture or creating something in your school that will no doubt be a benefit to a majority of the population. Without adequate risk assessing with representatives from all stakeholders, you may never identify a risk until it is too late.

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