By Theresa Sherry
You have what you need, you need what you have.
We are all a work in progress, and perfection is a static and dis-satisfactory goal. So, at whatever age, wherever you are in your experience of this life, stop looking for an endpoint to this pandemic, or for when you will be done growing as a person for that matter. Look back at the experiences that shaped you and look within for the things that make you the athlete, the coach, and the improv actor that you need to be in the unscripted moments ahead.
We all have in us, things that have prepared us for the moments we face. It may have taken a parent or coach to help bring out these qualities in the past, or maybe you have had to empower yourself. The point is, the things that you have in your mind and your heart are enough. You just have to remember them.
I used to watch that show “Whose Line is it Anyway” and I love the banter on any late night comedy series. Until recently, I thought those actors and comedians were geniuses to be able to think quickly and spit out both clever and funny at the same time. I would never, never, never be able to do that.
And then I started thinking of coaching as improv.
When it comes down to it, players and coaches alike are actors with skills and experience that gets performed at game time. We never take a game field without having practiced. An actor takes the stage only after hours of training, and rehearsals. So what I was seeing on the television were not famous people with no tools. Rather, the genius was in the way they used their tools, the way they designed with them, and then expressed in moments on screen.
As coaches of sports teams, we try to put athletes into environments where they are under pressure, forced to push their physical limits, and challenged to strategically problem solve on the field. We immerse them in groups of people with different backgrounds, behavior, and motivation. We condition in them a self-discipline around nutrition, training, and recovery. We act out plays in a script at practice, to prepare them for the unscripted game situations.
I truly believe that we are all athletes, so we all have this preparation to some extent. It is what we have, and what we need for the “here and now” of life- pandemic or not. And it means that we have the tools to handle both the dramatically hard, and the daily frustrations.
The key to moving through a hard workout, a crushing day in the E.R., or a chaotic day at home, is the ability to dig in and find meaning in past moments where translatable tools were developed. You have the skills, the fortitude, and the strategic mind you need. What moments gave you those skills in the past? What worked and what didn’t work then?
There is something going on in my “everyday” right now that makes me draw on every pressure situation I have experienced on and off the field. I realize that everyone is going through the jolts to normalcy and I am noticing that the doubts are compounding emotions in a way that make us forget our preparation. I find my own doubts, and those I hear about in others to be such a distraction from the truth which is that we have the tools we need. Doubts only mean that delivery will lack conviction. The emotions are passing, while the strength is always there.
We are all athletes, and I would say artist athletes. We are are designing a new normal made of the tools to handle emotions stimulated by the pandemic. Resilience, bravery, and tenacity are qualities championship athletes have, and they are the qualities that an artist has on stage or in the studio. Let us use the tool kits we have been adding to our whole lives.
We are never perfectly ready. We are never perfect, period. And sometimes the best performances come from what happens in the unscripted moments.