Youth sports leagues, associations, clubs and athletic programs are like any other organization you find yourself leading. Our people are challenged to bring their emotional best to work every day. Their emotional status can be impacted by internal forces every bit as powerful as external ones.
An experience I had with my son illustrates this internal dynamic.
Seven innings is all you get in Little League baseball, and this was the bottom half of that inning. Our team was up to bat, we were down by one run, and the bases were loaded.
As my son walked to the plate I understood the pressure he must have felt -- we already had two outs. This was our final chance and I knew how much he wanted to come through with a big hit.
The game doesn’t have a happy ending because my son struck out despite his determination. However, another victory was won that night. After about fifteen minutes of silence during the long car ride home I heard a reflective voice in the back-seat lament with a sigh, “Well, at least I didn’t throw my bat, I didn’t throw my helmet, and I didn’t say any bad words.”
The victory earned that night was in the battle for self-control, and it’s an important battle to win.
Anyone can boast self-control when things are going along smoothly. But what about those situations when the pressure is on, things are not going as planned, or you’re not getting your way?
Situations like the time you worked diligently on a project for several weeks and then when you thought it was complete you learned several key variables have been changed and half your work had to be redone. Or it might be a situation when a fellow staff member makes a sarcastic comment during a staff meeting about one of your most eloquent offered ideas. Or, have you felt the urge to snap at a rude or demanding coach or parent immediately after having an argument with one of your children over the phone?
All these examples represent one of the toughest challenges to our maturity – self-control under pressure. In every case, your intellect -- which knows what is right – is under attack by your emotions – which feels intensely but does not think rationally at all! If we allow our emotions to take control of our actions, we will quite possibly throw our bat and helmet in any situation.
The answer is to stop yourself long enough to know the difference between what you’re feeling and what mature thinking sounds like. In most cases, this takes a few moments or even minutes. But giving yourself a little “time-out” is usually enough to give yourself a chance to do the necessary mental gymnastics to stop from saying those “bad words.”
Try this three-step process to buy some time so you can respond, and not just react, the next time you strike out.
Step 1: Intentional Results
Ask yourself, “What positive results do I want to feel or see when this exchange is over?”
Step 2: Managing Thoughts
Ask, “What thoughts can I have about this situation that serve my highest purpose?”
Step 3: Productive Actions
Ask, “What options do I have, and which one fits the person I want to be?”
Self-control is a powerful force to master, both when you have it, and when you lose it. Reward yourself when you have success, and when those you lead demonstrate self-control, encourage them to recognize and reward themselves. When you or a colleague slip, it’s just as important to give yourself a break and take a moment to reflect on the questions above and how you can handle the next situation differently.