Thursday, July 18, 2019

Positional awareness

If there is some skill or ability I enjoy most in watching sports it is probably positional awareness. I love positional awareness. In soccer it is that nearly magical ability to know where everybody is and where everybody will be in a second or two. It's the ability to know all of that even while one is super busy with other things, like maneuvering for position with another player, or kicking a ball, or both, all at the same time. The two athletes I've most enjoyed watching in my life were transcendent in this ability: Lionel Messi and Magic Johnson. Messi doesn't just thread the ball in a pass like it's going through the eye of a needle, he sends it through two moving needles to float into the perfect trajectory of a player hidden across the field who then, with open space in front of the goal, well, it wasn't a great Spring for his team so we'll just leave the story off there. Magic, in a very different game, would look completely away from the play and, functionally blind and operating purely from positional awareness, feed the ball into his onrushing teammate who would score, because basketball is different than soccer, and it's easier to score.

Curiously, positional awareness comes into play heavily in my job as well. I don't care that much about hard work, which is only relevant to me with surprising rareness and can be a bit of a scam anyway. I value accuracy and competency very much, but it can be a little hard to track it in all these many people I work with at the library. But the positional awareness of my colleagues makes a difference to me every day I work and it is the main thing I judge my co-workers on and value them for.

What is it?

It's knowing how many empty bins are left and whether we're likely to need them. It's knowing how competent the co-worker next to you at the front desk is and what the third person in line at the desk is probably there for. It's knowing where a book might be and what the whining squeak means on the automated machine behind you. It's knowing when you can walk away for 15 minutes and effect no one instead of leaving someone helplessly to do your job, who, after all, might be me, or you, or it might be no one at all. There is a momentum to the work of any institution, and positional awareness in it is all about keeping that immensely useful momentum going forward while essentially, at the same time, keeping everyone out from under its dangerous wheels.

But really, in the end, having a skill in positional awareness, whether in sports or in some occasionally grinding job, allows a fundamental, important, and valuable thing: When something comes one's way, one will be able to gracefully handle it according to it's value and importance, all while best complementing everything around it. Which is not a bad plan for life.




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