I got kicked out of a soccer game for the first time ever today. (Yay Adam! Not my proudest moment but I don’t regret it.)
Simply put the referee was horrible and I have a loud voice with which I made my opinion known. However, I am happy to report that a) I did not swear, b) I did not threaten him, and c) the women in my life-mother, wife, daughters-told me that I did not embarrass them (trust me I asked!). But, without any warning whatsoever he sent me off the field so I could watch the game from the parking lot. Lovely.
I believe that if we don’t take the things in our life like this and learn from them then, well, we are definitely leaving something on the table. And even though it can be a bit exhausting I strive to learn what I can whenever I can. It’s usually the hardest lessons that teach us the most. Writing this post has been cheap, yet effective therapy for me.
The title of this post is Out Of (Our) Control. I am talking about both senses of this phrase, which I am not sure I ever realized were so related.
I wasn’t “out of control” today. I know this because I can imagine what that would be like and, happily, that did not happen today. If I was out of control there would have likely been foaming at the mouth, blood, tears, etc. However, I was extremely frustrated, along with our coach, our players and our parents. I reflected on this incident later in the day, after a hard run and long shower, and I realized that what made me so frustrated, and likely everyone else on our sidelines is that the judgements and actions of just one person, the referee, were able to unfairly make our team’s chances of winning harder than they would have been without his involvement. Circumstances out of our control led to very unpleasant results.
I like to be in control of what happens to me, my family, and those I care about, like this soccer team. I am sure you can relate. However, the nature of life is such that every human walking the earth gets to make whatever decisions they want to make, generally based on their past, their present life, and their view of the world. There are countless examples of people making stupid decisions that cause much more serious consequences than a heartbreaking loss in a soccer game. (Yes, I am aware it’s only a game.) People killed by drunk drivers, senseless shootings, financial fraud, etc. The list goes on and on. When these things happen we become frustrated, angry, and maybe even a bit desperate as we feel like we are powerless in guiding our destiny.
Here’s the thing. Remembering that it is impossible to control what other people do and that we WILL at some point, or maybe even quite often, feel the impact of things out of our control (lame referees, bad economies, evil people, incompetent politicians) should help minimize any surprise when this happens. If the surprise is minimized then we can more quickly take action to deal with the situation.
Focus on what’s left within our control, or power, most importantly our reaction.
As the girls on this team were so clearly disadvantaged by the calls made by this referee I think there was initial confusion and a sense of despair. “Why is he only calling fouls on us? What did we do to deserve this? This isn’t fair. How can we win like this?” (Any of these thoughts sound familiar to you? They do to me.)
But like the champs they are they shook those feelings off, controlled their reaction, and focused on what they were still able to do. They had lots of work to do and suddenly found that they were still able to play the game and actually do quite well, in spite of the enormous challenge laid down by the referee.
We were down 3-0 with about 20 minutes left to go and yet we absolutely out-hustled and outplayed this team, similar to the first half actually but with more intent, purpose and fire. The girls brought the game to 3-2 and just missed a final goal by inches in the last seconds of the game.
I don’t know if I have ever seen such a display of resilience and tenacity. I learned from these girls and am proud to know each of them. Even though the final score meant that we would not play in the tournament finals everyone who watched that game, including some of the more objective coaches and parents on the other side of the field, saw something special and knows that we actually won the game.
Incidentally, the Soccer Gods were clearly on duty today as this team we played went on to get their heads handed to them in the finals and lost 4-1.
My conclusion to this little episode is that we have to be sure that when things out of our control happen, and they will, that we don’t respond by getting out of control. It is extremely comforting and helpful to me (and I hope you) to know that by focusing on those things that are still in our control, even small things, we can accelerate our awareness of and attention to how much power we really do have. This includes the power of reaction.
Like these young ladies did today, controlling what we can is really all we can do to change the direction of these sorts of circumstances we all face on the soccer field of life.