Whose on your sideline?
The other day I got a message from a friend that read:
You’re going to be fine. I’ll watch you from the sidelines.
I stared at those words intently. I thought about what they might mean. I supposed what they might possibly suggest. But, I wondered what this friend was specifically implying.
And then I thought about Bear Bryant, the great football coach at the University of Alabama. The image of Bear Bryant on the sidelines with his rolled up game plan in hand kind of gave me a great hope that this is what this friend meant by saying, “I’ll watch you from the sidelines.” Maybe the expression was intended to allow me to be given the idea that this friend was on my sidelines as a great coach, motivator, pusher, or coordinator of ideas, a mentor, a guide, an instructor, a teacher, a facilitator, a hall of fame presence there to lead me to victory!
Then I thought about the fans way off in the nosebleed seats. And the hot dog vendor. And the coaching staff. The linesmen. The medical staff. The water boys. The cheerleaders. The security team. The special guest.
Then I thought about the teammates who are on the sidelines, waiting to get in the game. The ones on the bench. The red shirts.
And then I reconsidered what my friends message could have meant. And I asked myself this question:
Whose on your sideline?
The biggest lie that I have ever told was telling myself or anyone else that I was “fine”, at times. Even though in those moments I was really struggling and depressed or even desperate. Some of those times I was in great pain and angst, filled with anxiety and stress. But I said, “I’m fine”. Maybe it’s the whole “strong black man” thing. Or part pride and part fear. Or the reality that saying anything other than “I’m fine” rarely produced much of anything different from whatever distress or frustration there was. Opening up myself to revealing my issues only opened the can of inquisition into my issues. It just put people in my business. Didn’t change much of my immediate situation, it just added the speculation and commentary of the critics and know-it-alls that felt obliged to crucify my lack of being able to handle or navigate my own mess into maturity and resolution.
So if I said that I wasn’t fine, the best I often got was a question of why not. And that’s where the real problem came.
Whenever I opened my mouth about my problems, and I began to express my opinions and perspective on how I interpret or intake whatever my journey is or has been, you know what people ALWAYS say to me:
Oh, you’re going to be fine!
As if from my answer they receive that I’ve got a clue! That somehow in my mess I’ve got the message and my trial is just a temporary setback, a hiccup along the road to my success. A hiccup that I’ll work through and eventually overcome. A hiccup that is just a minor condition, easily remedied by a sip of water or less, a gentle scare that may startle this discomfort from myself.
But the sentiment is always, “You’re going to be fine”.
And I believe it. That I’ll be fine. So even when I’m not, I can say it with a deep and sincere conviction because I believe that I will eventually be. And that is confirmed by the great crowd of witnesses and well-wishers that seem to concur with my idealistic and ambitious, yet misleading truth of some moments where I was not at all “fine”, but in no other way willing to state or admit otherwise.
Like the other day when I read those words:
You’ll be fine. I’ll watch you from the sidelines.
Well, those words got me to thinking, and so I decided that it was time to organize and in some cases, recognize, just who is on my sideline.
Some people are coaches. Coaches do a lot of very important things. Coaches are the leadership, the guides. Coaches are the accountable individuals that prepare and plan, in conjunction with your talent and skill set, what the game plan to victory is. Coaches are also mentors and role models that stand in the gap of where parents or guardians may have been absent. Coaches are also the confidants and companions that you trust with your most ambitious of aspirations as well as your weakest of insecurity. A great coach will take even a mediocre talent and produce a championship caliber performance. Great coaches have experience and expertise that is renowned and valuable and with a great coach, so many wonderful possibilities are sure to be realized.
Some people are part of the coaching staff, assistant coaches. They have some power. They know some things. They have a title. But they are not the head coach. They don’t have a final say. They are middle men who are responsible for articulating the coaches orders and commands in a manner that is reasonable to get you to make the proper adjustment or choice. They are specialists in certain or particular fields but they maybe don’t have the experience, network, or connections, that are certain of a big time coach. There are up-and-coming, and longtime assistants.
Some people are linesman. Referees. They are there to maintain order and structure while you play. They maintain the integrity of the rules or of the contest. The linesman are experts at studying the intrinsic nature and nuances of the game in order to better facilitate an environment that stabilizes and regulates the consistent flow of activity. These people are the checks and balances. They have a great deal of responsibility, that sometimes we interpret as power. But it is a responsibility, delegated to them by a larger body (power) in order to maintain the character and reputation of fairness. Our complaints to the linesmen or referees in our life will sometimes influence their decision but most often are just entertained noise due to their having to play by a much larger and broader set of rule and organization.
Some people are their on business. Their job, which has nothing to do with you, has them their on your sideline. From a hotdog vendor to the medical training staff, these people are there to work. Your job is there job! The reason they are there is for you but not about you. They’ll do what they are doing with just as much enthusiasm and involvement whether you are there or not. No matter who is in your position. They are there for the benefit of whatever you benefit. They might have on your colors, your jersey, your number. They might know your name. You might be very comfortable and affiliated with them. You have a relationship with them, oftentimes one much stronger than some might expect. But they are there to work. You are work for them. Nothing personal.
Some people are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are very tricky. The thing about a cheerleader is that they are rooting for you. They are specifically positioned and particular to your cause. The cheerleaders are uniform with your mission and goal. The cheerleaders are consistent and thorough. The cheerleaders are adamantly supportive and dependable. The cheerleaders are faithful and vocal and wildly active in your pursuit towards greatness. They are at games and practice. The cheerleaders completely embody what support should looks and feel like but the fact is that cheerleading is a role. It is a job just like the staff. Those people are professional fanatics. They root for the cause, not because of you. You get the benefit of them because you are apart of a much larger team that employs them! Cheerleading is a career choice. You are a product that cheerleaders sell!
Some people on the sideline are actually on the team. They are just not in the game. Maybe their position isn’t in play right now. Maybe they are a role player, opener or closer. Maybe they are a designated hitter, or utilized best in a certain time frame. Maybe they are rookies or vets, there because they are earning or have earned their spot. Sometimes they are there because they are on the team but are sidelined due to injury or transition. There is also the player that is there that is waiting on you to come out, get injured, traded, or retire. Those people are just like you, can immediately and currently identify with what’s going on. But at any given moment are ready, willing, and able, to replace you! Don’t you forget that.
Some people are just fans. Whether they paid for a seat, court side or nosebleed, or were comped a free ticket as a guest, or are there as a part of a deal or promotion that just needs bodies in the stands. They are fans. They are support. Avid, sometimes fanatical. They influence the bigger picture and to a great extent are what everyone is in the game for, but they are fans. Some people allow “fans” to be their great motivation and drive. Some people rely on the rants, chants and screams, of fans, to dictate the intensity of their performance. They allow the fans visible show of admiration or disdain to be the great catalyst to determining their own level of dedication or motive towards the goal. Especially if the “player” is in the game for money or fame, thereby guaranteeing that “playing to” a fan is more likely than playing for the coach. The fans have on your gear, they scream your name, they follow your career. But they are just fans. You are their favorite until you’re not.
And there are others on the sideline, like the media, the corporate folks, the celebrity/special guests, and others. Everybody there for their own reasoning.
And so after I read the text I began to attempt to identify the roles of the people on my sidelines. Because in that quick moment I realized that I had been expecting coaching moves from my fan base. I had mistakingly confused some of the cheerleaders for teammates and some of the hot dog vendors for fans. I’d been expecting some of the business people to do media relations and I had allow some of the medical staff to operate like celebrities or special guests, meaning they had a job to do, instead I gave them perks and special privileges!
And I realized that some people are just there to cheer me on. They aren’t supposed to invest or lead me in a particular direction. They aren’t supposed to identify with my training or experience. They aren’t there to “understand” me or my story or how hard I struggled or continue to struggle to maintain. They are just there to root for me. And they don’t even have to buy tickets to do it. They get to do it at their leisure. They get to do it at their discretion, and maybe at my expense!
But they are all in the same place, on the sideline.
You’ve chosen to play. You are in the game. You are there because you want to be there. You are there because you have something you want to prove, to yourself, something you want to do, for yourself, and something you want to get, out of you. On your sidelines are the people that need to be there! They are in the roles that they are supposed to be in. You have to let them play those roles out. You can’t expect them to change or accommodate according to what you feel you need in or at any given moment.
This is your game. This is your moment. All of the hard work and effort was necessary for this. And you put yourself there.
What is your choice, is what you do. Also within your power is how you respond or react to what everyone is saying or doing. Those people on the sideline matter or don’t matter as much as you allow, acknowledge, or accept. And most of the time their response is a direct reflection of yours. If you are good, they will say that. If you are not, they will say that. In the end they will only be capable of saying about you what you say about you. Not just your words either, your actions. If your mouth says you are the greatest but your work says the opposite, they have every right to recite either one. In my case, where I’ve realized people to say that I would be “fine” despite what I may think I’m going through is a result of the fact that my actions and history have spoken just that. I am resilient and diligent, patient and very ambitious. At the end of the day I believe that I will make it and that is what comes off. That is what people perceive from me. So even though my temporary state, the current play, this game, says I’m down, that’s not the end of my story. History, my history and stats in particular, say that I’ll come back and more than likely I will win!
So keep running! Keep going! Stay in the game. You’ll be just fine.
So says whoever is on your sideline!
©2014 Cornelious “See” Flowers