Don’t Drop the Ball

Maybe you are playing basketball or football and somebody yells at you not to drop the ball  – in that case you take that advice literally and do not drop the ball to the ground if you can at all avoid it.

Literal ball dropping at a football game (c) Jacob Petersen/ The Lumberjack

It is another expression borrowed from American football where it is a really bad idea to drop the ball because then it can be snatched up by the opponents and they can make a run for the goal.  Consequently, in a business context “dropping the ball” means to fail to perform as expected, not to live up to one’s responsibilities, to make a (serious) mistake.

It is a fairly serious expression so if your boss tells you: “I am giving you this important project, make sure you do not drop the ball!” you better make sure you perform.

It is also used after the fact, as this example of a headline shows: “DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has dropped the ball on network security”  this is followed by the following strong statement “Bleak doesn’t begin to describe the picture painted by this morning’s news coverage of a 35-page government report scoring – and excoriating – the nation’s ongoing inability to protect critical network operations from cyber attack.” (

One Comment to “Don’t Drop the Ball”

  1. Hello, Tina.

    This is a very good idiom blog. I understand the need to gear idiom explanations to a particular nation. I do the same for China. An example of what I do can be found at this link:

    Best wishes with your blog!

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