You’re in the Arena (Part 1 of 2)

One of my favorite speeches is called “The Man in the Arena” by Theordore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…”

As I recite these words I can’t help but think of you! You are living in the arena and you might feel judged, pressured, or simply misunderstood by those who sit in the seats and watch.

Being in the arena is the most vulnerable place we can put ourselves, and one of the problems with living in the arena is that we will try our best, and we will lose. But what is important in this defeat is that we do not lose ourselves.

I almost lost track of that truth last month.

Outside of my work as CEO of TEEN TRUTH, I am also the head coach of the Texas Tigers. We are a small flag football team that I have taken from kindergarten to now 4th grade. We have had a ton of success at the “recreational league” level.

This year I decided to take the next step and lead a squad into the highly competitive tournament world of Texas flag football. The select teams we faced were simply amazing and we quickly realized that we had to put in a lot of work.

This summer we committed to football practices in the Texas heat. Hours of time watching game film and finessing our playbook. Even week-long camps to help us better our skills and prepare for our next shot.

Last month that shot came, and after all of our hard work… We won! We went up there with our rec league team and won some games, putting us in a winner’s bracket for the Sunday games at the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play

I was stoked. And I was super pumped for our team.

The problem is: I didn’t tell anyone my expectations for the playoff game. I relied on a few text messages and a team agenda to communicate to the parents/players what I was hoping to achieve on Sunday.

It’s an easy mistake to make. We’ve all relied on an app to communicate with parents, or expected kids to finish their assignments even though the directions were only presented digitally.

The night before the game I was so excited that I could barely sleep. The eagerness and anxiety in my stomach made me feel tight. And the desire to win was clouding my every move.

But I didn’t communicate any of that. And I didn’t communicate my expectations.

When players were staying up well past curfew and running around the hotel all weekend like maniacs, I didn’t communicate expectations.

Nobody knew how exhausted I was after coaching six back to back games in 106 degree weather the day before. Until Sunday morning when my best player showed up 40-minutes late to the stadium, and I exploded.

I got angry and yelled, upsetting both the players and the parents on the team. And it demoralized the team right before we went into the biggest game of their young lives.

In our CAMPUS RELATIONSHIPS workshop I teach staff time and time again that we must be vulnerable with our needs and willing to communicate them to others. But here I was in a real-world situation and I failed to use my own tactics to find relational success.

I failed. And that is something that happens to all of us. Each and every person who tries will, at some point, make a mistake. Failure is an inevitable part of life. But the important part of failure is how we respond to it.

In part 2 of this blog, coming next week, I will tell you how I worked to solve the conflict that I created.

But as you push into your school year, let’s learn from my mistakes and recap a few strategies I could have used…

#1 – I could have told people how I was feeling that weekend.
#2 – I could have set better expectations via an in-person meeting.
#3 – I could have asked my assistant coach for help before I got to that point.
#4 – I could have taken a step back that Sunday morning, removed myself from the situation, and then came back only after I had cooled off.

You and I live our lives in the arena. We know the joy of triumph and the agony of defeat, but what Roosevelt missed in one of the greatest speeches ever told was the relational component.

We don’t have to live in the arena alone!

Until part 2…

JC Pohl, LMFT
President & CEO, TEEN TRUTH

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