Can you upset the odds in life? Lessons in attitude and teamwork from the FA Cup

The magic of the FA Cup (Photos: Getty)The magic of the FA Cup (Photos: Getty)
The magic of the FA Cup (Photos: Getty) | Getty

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What is it about the FA Cup that inspires giant killing? And what can we all learn from it, asks performance coach Amana Walker

The FA Cup should be called the ‘For Anyone’ Cup because it really is. That’s why we love it and that’s why it’s unique.

When the opportunity is there, some teams rise to the challenge and grab it.

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And what’s exciting about the FA Cup is that it’s anyone s game, and for the lower league teams, when the odds are stacked so high against you, adrenaline, and sheer determination to win often kicks in .

We’ve seen cracking performances from Cambridge (beating Newcastle Utd), Boreham Wood (beating Wimbledon), Kidderminster (beating Reading), Huddersfield (beating Burnley) and Nottingham Forest (beating Arsenal).

But these performances are about much more than football.

When the task in front of us looks like an impossibility, how many of us would - and do - give in or give up ? Especially if:

  • we fall down/fail early
  • we face such strong competition
  • we’re out of our comfort zone (or league)
  • we have less support than others have

The FA Cup gives us all (footballers or not) some cracking, and valuable lessons to learn...

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If you believe you are good enough to succeed, you’ve already put yourself at the starting line.

Surprisingly, people who do have the skill and experience to succeed often don’t. They are held back by a lack of confidence or a lack of self-belief.

You don’t have to be the best at what you do or have been doing it the longest, but when you think ‘Why can’t I do this?’ and remove the self-doubt, you open up the doors of possibility.

Winning mentally (first) changes everything.

Talent doesn’t always cost

The more the footballer or person is paid, the greater their talent, and the more they win right? You’d think so, but it doesn’t always work like that.

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We all probably know someone who earns a lot but their performance falls disappointingly short. And we’ve witnessed many people at the lower end of the pay scale who do an outstanding job. This happens in football, and it happens in life.

Never be put off by someone who has a bigger ‘price tag’ than you have. They are carrying the pressure to perform that comes with their salary.

Focus on yourself and show your talent.

When you are in a team, work for each other.

In sport and in life there are numerous examples of people in a team who are driven to be the one who wins, who scores, and who wants the glory for themselves. Holding on to the ball for too long often means a lost opportunity to score, and when you are clearly working selfishly, the team becomes disjointed. Teams in the workplace end up missing their targets, giving a lower level of service, and suffering a dip in morale.

If you are in a team, you have far more chances of winning when you all want the same thing, and you collectively work hard to get it.

When egos get in the way, no one wins.

Keeping it simple is often the best way to win.

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Being a fancy pants might look good but looking good doesn’t necessarily win you the game or the prize you’re after.

In our search to achieve it’s all too common to overcomplicate what we are trying to do, and when that happens, we can lose sight of what really matters. Instead, sharpen up on getting the basics right.

Success and strength are in simplicity.

You don’t know your potential, until you push it.

I can say with absolute certainty that this applies to every single one of us. And as a coach, I spend time with all my clients (footballers or not) talking about it. We do not know how much we are capable of until we push our own boundaries.

Getting out of our comfort zones (and yes, we sometimes do need a shove) is the very thing that forces us to change what we do, challenge ourselves and, well, prove that we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

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It’s not always our critics that need shutting up, it’s that negative voice in our heads saying we’re not good enough. That’s the critic that needs ignoring the most.

Take on a challenge and dare yourself to win.

Never class yourself as an ‘underdog’. The FA Cup shows us that with determination and desire, anyone can win.

And that applies to you.

Amana Walker is a performance coach who works with a range of business leaders and sports professionals. More info at

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