“We are impatient, anxious to see the whole picture, but God lets us see things slowly, quietly.”
For all its blessings, the CYO field hockey season rarely starts out smoothly as everyone is a volunteer trying their best to do what amounts to a part-time job during a very busy season. My wife and I, along with another mom, agreed to coach the JV team at our parish again. Despite what the tone and volume of my voice may suggest from the sidelines, JV CYO field hockey should principally be geared toward all the girls getting some playing time, so the coach’s strategy for substituting players is essential, especially with a big team like ours.
We felt like we had a great plan for our first game on Friday. However, earlier in the day our opponents shared that they didn’t know if they would have enough players to fill the field and requested that we play "7 versus 7" - slightly fewer girls on the field. We agreed, but that meant explaining in about 15 minutes to 20 fifth- and sixth-grade girls that everything we practiced would be very different than what we would actually be doing. Hands darted up, panic set in, eyes started to well, and one or two girls reached for inhalers.
As the ref blew the whistle to start the game, I knew we were in trouble. We tried to use different words to explain new positions, but that just made things worse. We were still mixing up similar sounding girls’ names and as the sun set and the clock wound down, I found myself at times just yelling out the girls’ names I could remember and pushing some other girls into the game to make sure we had at least the right number of girls on the field at one time.
Despite the trauma, the girls played great, and we tied the game (a marked improvement from last year), but my wife and I were exhausted. As we reflected on our experience, I couldn’t help but wonder how often in leadership I might be preparing myself and others for an ideal reality that may not exist, or minimally not be the norm? How often do I drill into someone about a specific position without first helping them understand the whole field? When unexpected change happens, am I just reacting to it, or do I take time to reset, provide the larger context first, and remind people about what remains constant versus what might be different? In my relationship with the Lord, do I try to listen for where He is coaching me or do I just reach for the inhaler?
My wife and I realized going forward we needed not just to put the girls in a spot and hope they stay there, but rather to let them experience the whole field so they can grow as a team. Prayers for whatever matches you have lined up for this week.