The week that Euro 2016 starts is probably a good week to think about a little known team performance issue that I’ve come to call ‘the Rooney Effect’, in honour of England football captain Wayne Rooney.

Fourteen years ago Wayne Rooney burst onto the footballing scene, a 16 year old kid who thought he could take on the world, and who was so good that Everton fans and commentators alike started referring to him as Superman. He scored his first Premier League goal against Arsenal in a game Everton won 1-0, and so ended Arsenal’s record-breaking run of 30 games without defeat. He transferred to Manchester United for £25.6 million at the age of 18, and scored a hat-trick on his United debut.

His early rise to England goal-scoring centre forward was just as meteoric too. He was the youngest player ever to play for England (17 years and 111 days), he became England’s youngest ever goal scorer later that year, and at Euro 2004 he became the youngest ever scorer in the history of the European Championships. He scored four goals, and selected for the Team of the Tournament, but was injured in the quarter finals, which England subsequently lost.

Rooney played as a young man with no fear; that’s the Rooney Effect. He was too young to feel the pressure, and too young to be afraid that any mistakes would be the end of his England career. He played the beautiful game with joy and gusto, and got superb results. Gary Neville relates that Rooney said to him the morning of the big quarter final with Portugal, “I can’t wait for tonight’s game.” Neville was amazed; he’d never seen a player so excited about being able to play on such a pressured stage. No professional footballer he’d met had ever been so excited by the opportunity to play in such a big game.

Rooney’s form for club and country back then is comparable with players like Deli Ali and Marcus Rashford now. These players are so talented and so young that they don’t fear making a mistake going into a high pressure game. The Rooney Effect has passed from Wayne Rooney onto the next generation of super-talented young players.

So how can you take advantage of the Rooney Effect for your team members? Here are two suggestions:

  1. Are any of your team members afraid of how they will perform under pressure? This could be on sales, on presentations, before big meetings, or any number of things. What can you do to reduce the pressure on them, so they can be freed up to perform better?
  2. Do you have any young and talented hotshots waiting for a place on your team? Where can you give them experience, so they learn to perform well whilst they’re still too young to know fear of failure?

Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.

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