J is for Just
J is for Just. Today's word is just. We are going to try something a little bit different with this entry. I'm going to give you three applications of the word just and how they may play into your lives as athletes, coaches, educators, and people.
1. "Just the way I am"- Have you been guilty of saying this? I know I have. We use it to rationalize our behavior. An example I have in my life involves social situations with large amounts of people. They are a challenge for me. I find idle chit chat to be exhausting and especially hate being the center of attention in most group settings other than teaching. As a result, I worry that I come across as standoffish in these sorts of environments which would surprise many who really know me. Sorry. "It's just the way I am." Is that really good enough though? Ultimately, that is up to each individual to determine for himself/herself. Readers of the blog know I am huge on self-awareness and a focus on being You. What I may not make clear often enough is that it's the BEST "just the way you are" possible we are after. Jeff Banister, AL Manager of the year, had a quote I loved in a guest column he wrote for ESPN. "You can't coach today's game by yesterday's rules." The quote was in reference to how the 21st century athlete is different than "we were" and needs a different type of leadership focused on development and well-being of individuals within the group. Rather than "just being us" we should be focused on "just being the most effective us possible."
2. Just _______ (insert command).- "Just throw strikes right here." "Just have a good at-bat." "Just get this guy out." "Just get it done." In this form, the word just is defined as "making a request or granting permission." The gap between a request and permission is visible in these examples and can make a major difference in how athletes process. A pitcher is struggling. He has walked two hitters and is 2-0 on a third. "Just throw strikes right here." Oh, is that all? Thanks. What does he think I'm trying to do? This is a needy request or even demand. Anxiety and more balls likely follow. A hitter is about to have a "big" at-bat. It's later in the game, the score is tight, and there are runners in scoring position. "Just have a good at-bat." Here, permission is being granted. The permission takes the hitter away from the results and the situation of the game. We move the focus away from a feeling of "I've got to get a hit right now." Urgency often leads to tight muscles that don't work as well as they're capable. What I would ask yourself to do is think about your Just Statements to players. Are you granting permission or making requests? You're likely doing both in a variety of situations, and both can be appropriate. Think about how they have worked out in the past and which puts the athletes in the best position to be successful.
3. Just Like Us- Our final Just is a reminder of how professional athletes are in fact just like us. On Sunday, many watched the undefeated Panthers play the Giants. The game within the game was the big matchup between Odel Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman. Unfortunately, OBJ's lack of control in drawing three personal fouls took away from the actual football play. While many pointed to the poor behavior and worried about the repercussions for thousands of kids watching, I kind of take a different view in seeing the game as an opportunity to learn. The lesson is professional athletes are just like us. It is difficult for many of them to control their emotions. This certainly doesn't make the actions right. Beckham probably should have been ejected, and I do agree professional athletes are held to higher standards. That being said, I was impressed that Beckham was able to come back and make some big plays late in the game (another lesson here). Whether he should have still been playing or not is another conversation entirely, but he was and played well towards the end of the game after clearly being out of it. Imagine if he had settled down and play that way the whole game. Again, professional athletes are people. They are higher paid and more skilled in certain things, but they're imperfect people who make mistakes and have faults. Let's accept that and learn.
The J is for Just Song of the Day is David' Bowie's "Changes"
I know it doesn't start with a J, but the words speak to the fact we all change over time. The song takes an optimistic approach to this inevitability. Also, it's another throwback Winthrop BP jam for one Jon Wilson (Thanks for reading Willy Whiteshirt!).