A Wednesday Unmeeting

Most Wednesdays during the year, I host an unmeeting over lunch in a cafe at the University of Canberra.

No one is obliged to come but pizza is on offer in the context of “an informal type of meeting without the rules, format or constraints of a formal meeting”. The general topic of these meetings is the observation, analysis and coaching. Some unmeetings extend to a dozen or so participants, occasionally it is a monologue with myself.

The unmeetings have their own rhythm and by being held in a public place, people join us as they pass by.

My thoughts about the unmeeting approach are informed by the Boot Room at AnfieldMitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, and world cafes.

Last Wednesday was a delightful unmeeting lunch. There were just three of us: Mitch Mooney, Ron Smith and me. What evolved over the next two hours was the epitome of the magic of an unmeeting.

Mitch has been monitoring the Super Netball tournament and Ron was ‘fresh’ from the live coding of all 64 World Cup football games. I have been keeping an eye on both tournaments so was delighted to connect Mitch and Ron’s work.

We started by looking at Mitch’s visualisation of substitution behaviours in the 2017 and 2018 Super Netball tournaments:

We discussed Mitch’s data capture, data analysis and data visualisation approaches before exploring the coaching implications of the insights he was able to share. We spent some time talking about how patient coaches can be in their awareness of game flow but then went on to discuss reactive coaching responses.

I thought one of the great outcomes of Mitch’s work is that we can use longitudinal data to support pre-game planning and within-game decisions in the context of n > 1.

The unmeetings are also BYOD events so I added two charts from my Netball performance tracking to extend the conversation about what kind of tournament 2018 is in the context of 2017.

After crowding around my screen to view these, we started on a conversation about invasive games and the connections between them.

Whilst Ron was sorting out his computer, we talked about Horst Wein and his involvement with hockey, football and other sports. Ron had hosted a visit by Horst to Malaysia and so we were treated to a first hand account of Horst’s coaching.

We then moved on to Ron’s real-time coding of all 169 World Cup goals from the 2018 tournament. He showed us his timeline:

And his csv file:

After Ron’s explanation of his observations we concluded our conversation with contemplation of transition play in football and netball. This involved addressing what I have come to call the Smith Binary.

Ron’s analysis of goal scoring in open play is defined by a profound basic principle: are there more of our players than opponents in front of me? Yes triggers a transition play that results in a shot at goal within 12 seconds. No triggers a decision about possession retention that will ultimately result in a ball played behind a defender to create a goal scoring opportunity.

We discussed how this binary is manifested in netball.

We had also consumed two large pizzas!

I have asked Mitch’s and Ron’s permissions to share this unmeeting. I have done so in part to celebrate their wisdom and also to promote unmeetings as a most convivial way to have inclusive conversations.

Whilst writing this post I thought about one of Morrie Schwartz’s observations shared by Mitch Albom:

The truth is, part of me is every age. I’m a three-year-old, I’m a five-year-old, I’m a thirty-seven-year-old, I’m a fifty-year-old. I’ve been through all of them, and I know what it’s like. I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it’s appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own.

… and believe that unmeetings give all of us this opportunity.

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