Stop thinking…

Situation: I did something wrong at football practice.

Me: “Coach – I thought… (can’t remember what I said)”

Coach: “Stop thinking so much.”

I truly don’t remember the details of what I’d done wrong in yesterday’s football practice, but I’ve been thinking about Coach telling me to “stop thinking so much” since then. Notice the irony in this situation? Coach tells me to stop thinking so much and I’m still thinking about it 24 hours later. LOL. Hopefully, over the course of this post, I’ll clarify why I’m so appreciative of my coach for saying those words to me. They were EXACTLY the words I needed to hear in the moment.

I practice on Saturdays with the Maine Mayhem – a well-established and successful women’s football team. This season there are about 20 rookies (myself included) and 20 veterans. It’s a great mix of women athletes who are passionate about the game and work together to be the best team we can be. There is an experienced coaching staff who make the most of each three hour practice session by being prepared and creating opportunities for us to learn the game. There is also an amazing Board of Directors – the women who get all the “shit that needs doing” done! I feel very blessed to be a part of this organization.

Mayhem the week before I found out about the team.

The Team’s motto this season is “ROW”. I’ve had this explained to me as – think about rowing a big 11 person canoe together. If there are 11 of us together in the boat, we each have to be doing the RIGHT thing – the RIGHT way – at the RIGHT time or it all becomes a shit show in a hurry. Also, someone’s likely to take the punishment (literally as in a QB sack) for the team if we don’t each do our jobs. I love the analogy of being a part of a CREW that has to work together to make every play – offense, defense or special teams – a success. There are so many factors in that success and we won’t/don’t always succeed. Even in those failures, we learn and become better athletes and teammates.

Back to the comment to “Stop thinking so much”….

It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time because it stopped the voices in my head. Those voices – I think most of us have them to some extent – can sometimes get the better of me. Yesterday, I was in a new position playing TE with the offense for the first time. There’s a LOT of moving parts! Where do I stand in the huddle? Will I remember my job on each play? Is Kristi really mad because I stepped on her foot in the huddle? Will I remember the pass routes? What if Paula actually throws me the ball? Will I catch it? I think Katie is playing safety – I hope I don’t run into her! The voices tend to take on a life of their own.

Sometimes I wish there was just one. I’m learning to calm them.

On top of that, I’ve always found a place in the world by being trying to be a “pleaser”. I want people to be happy with me. So I work hard to be doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. I’m also an “interrogator“. I ask questions all the time. I’m working to set this strategy aside and be in the moment. I’m just beginning to learn it’s ok to simply be myself and let the chips fall where they fall. It’s definitely a journey I’m on.

At this point in my life, I’m STILL learning that making mistakes is ok. In fact, it’s actually how I learn best. I tell my students every day that we celebrate mistakes because they help us learn. I know it’s true, but when I’m the one making the mistakes, it’s time to step up to the plate and LEARN. My big mistake yesterday in practice was a blown assignment. I’ll never kick out the DE on power again. I was so mad at myself for making that fundamental mistake and letting my team down on that play. I know in my bones that play side blocks down on power. How could I have been so stupid?

I wasn’t focused and was THINKING about something other than the task in the moment. I needed to stop thinking so much and just run the play. Stay in the moment. Breathe. Be in the present. This is the message of my meditation practice, of my neglected yoga practice and something I try to teach my students on a daily basis. Stay in the moment with me. Don’t be dwelling on the past – it’s over. Flush it! Don’t be worrying about the future – it will be here soon enough. Do what you can now to prepare. BE in this moment. Coach’s words to “STOP THINKING Ally” worked as a smack up side the head, as a RESET to focus my attention on the moment I was in. Thank you Coach!

I try to be coachable. I was in that moment and it paid dividends in the form of sticking with each play in the moment for the rest of practice. As I reflect today on my sore calves, my tight hamstrings, my tweaked thumb, and my sore neck, I’m first thankful for all my teammates who are out there battling with me trying to be the best we can be. Secondly, I’m grateful for all our coaches who push us to be the best we can be as individuals and as a team. Finally, I’m glad to be back on the field. It’s been a long time and it’s a privilege to be a part of a team like the Mayhem. I’ll be an opportunity maker in any way I can to help this team succeed.

“Each one of you is better than anybody else at something”
– Kare Anderson (Ted Talk)

Football love to all my teammates and coaches. Now… I’m off to thinking about what I’m going to do with the rest of my day in Wonderland! I won’t be thinking long Coach. I’ll be doing!
~ Ally

Published by Ally Cleveland

I go by Ally. It's my Derby name - Ally's in Wonderland. It's how I feel about the world and my place in it. I teach middle school, I work out, I skate, I do what I can to make the world a better place.

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