Monday, January 19, 2009

The Off Season

Down time. Time away from life's center stage. That's really what we were discussing yesterday when we considered my Lessons From A Faucet.

Burned in my memory is a basketball game. And not just any old game!

It was 1993. The team I loved, indeed the team I had followed since 1969 -- The Phoenix Suns -- were in the NBA Finals. Against the seemingly unbeatable Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Having lived in Phoenix for a number of years, I was able to occasionally attend a game. Sometimes a friend would call with tickets. One Sunday I received such a call right after church. The Suns were playing a matinee game and my friend Richard was given his company's tickets. On the floor! "Can you come?" he asked. I spent the afternoon in basketball bliss.

Most of the time, I had to settle for watching the team on television or listening on the radio. My early years in Yuma, coverage was quite limited. Our distance from Phoenix was enough so that most of what I got was in the newspaper the day after each game.

When the Suns made the Finals in 1993, I was ecstatic. On the Sunday before the series started, a lady approached me at church... "My husband has tickets to Game One on Wednesday night and I can't go. Would you like to go with him?" Was she kidding?

When we got to the arena that night, our seats were just a few rows from the floor and right behind the Chicago bench. The seat gave me a vantage point and left me with an impression significant enough to still think about it. Long after I got over the letdown of the Suns' loss that night (and ultimately of the series), I still remember Michael Jordan pulling up for jump shots.

The nickname "Air" was well-deserved, I discovered. It seemed as if he was at the vertical apex of his jump (and other players were succumbing to gravity) when suddenly he would rise several more inches from the floor. As I think about it, it's odd that you couldn't really see the full effect of his vertical leap unless you were watching the summit at eye level. We were! What a mental picture it left me!

You and I know that MJ didn't achieve that leaping ability by showing up at the court that night and playing ball. He gained it an exercise at a time in the weight room and grew it on the practice floor and running track. During the off season. Over many years.

I made a decision long ago that I wanted to become a better leader. I discovered that good leaders maintain certain disciplines during their "off seasons." If the training regimen for an athlete is primarily physical, for a leader it's primarily mental. Both endeavors also require emotional discipline.

Every person has a certain factory-installed raw talent. Much of where it gets us depends significantly on what we do in our off season?

When is your off season? How are you using it?


Scriptor Senex said...

I spent a lot of time thinking about your post and how I felt about it.

When I worked I discovered that I had a talent for management. I could manage people and I could manage jobs so the jobs got done and, generally speaking, the people who did them felt they were valued and useful. But what happens when something (in my case retirement on ill health) stops you using that talent? The talent hasn’t gone away but the opportunity to use it has. It seems such a waste.

Your posting made me realise that I do still use that talent during this off season. I use it in the way I approach people who serve me in the shops. I use it in the way I interact with my family. I even use it to some extent in the way I comment on someone’s blog posting.

I have, after a long time of feeling guilty at not using that talent, at last realised that I do still use it and all those years of developing it were not totally wasted after all.

Thank you, Sam, for a really helpful blog.

beckiwithani said...

After two years off of summer school, I am teaching it again. Not for the WHOLE summer as I did last time (when I only got a 2-day weekend on the Spring end, and a 3-day weekend on the Fall end - not much of a break), but for a three-week session.

There are two reasons for this (or 3, if you consider that they're paying me ridiculously well when I'll only be working 20 hours a week - 10 in the classroom, and 10 planning/grading):

(1) I get depressed as the summer goes on. Our summer break is only about 7 weeks due to mandatory teacher professional development for 3 weeks. But I don't do well with prolonged periods of inactivity. I need to feel that I'm doing something useful. A few weeks of summer is great, but then I start getting the itch to teach again. And ...

(2) This summer school is the KIDS' opportunity to use their off-season, too. Our school is 7th-12th grade (ages 12-18ish, for non-Americans), and we started a MANDATORY 3-week Summer Academy for the incoming 7th graders last summer. They were taught our stringent school expectations (including very high expectations for behavior, and detention when homework isn't completed), and they got a leg up on basic math and writing skills that many of our low-income urban students are, sadly, lacking (equal education across socioeconomic strata being, unfortunately, a myth in this country). The 7th graders that walked into my class this past September, although I hadn't taught them over the summer, had been taught by teachers who believe in the mission of the school. I have never had a better 7th grade class. And, unlike usual, the families all know exactly how tough our school is by the time they arrive in September - so we have lost no 7th graders this year, in comparison to the several we usually lose when the parents decide we expect too much of their children. Sad.

I want to be a part of helping the kids make the most of their off-season, too.

Dina said...

Since freelance writing is how I'm now mainly contributing to my family's finances, I guess anytime I'm not writing for specific projects is considered my "off-season." I have two major projects I'm working on now, so when I'm not actively writing for them, I try to read information that will keep me better informed regarding the topics I'm covering, as well as observe behaviors around me that offer new insight to those topics.

My blog is also part of my "off-season" work. By thinking of subjects to write about and through the actual act of writing, I'm continuing to improve upon my craft. It actually helped to open a door to my most recent freelance project as well. Entering the blogosphere has also led to the discovery of writers with many different styles, many of whom have inspired me or taught me something.

Dina said...

Sam, I forgot to say thank you. You're one of the writers I'm speaking of.

Rachel Cotterill said...

My first instinct is that I almost feel as if I never have an 'off' season, I'm always busy! But on the other hand, most of the things I do are 'for fun' - even if they're also for money. (I think that makes me lucky.)

I suppose, like Dina, my blog might count - an ongoing commitment I'm not paid for. Similarly the long walks I take in the countryside with the camera... on the one hand, a gentle morning's relaxation, on the other hand, hoping to improve my photography in the hope people might buy more of my pictures to go with more of my articles in future.

Maybe my problem with answering this question is that I can't narrow myself down to which one thing would count as 'on'... it's all life... it's all connected. I suppose one answer is that I need to keep having fun, doing 'stuff', living life - so that I have something to write about!

Thanks for a challenging question!

Sam said...

See a bit of my response to your comments tomorrow. Thank you all!

Sandy Carlson said...

Our families "off season" is going to Montana for six weeks every summer. We get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I love to get caught up on sleep. The only time I set the alarm clock is when we're going to town about once a week. We don't have to worry about where we have to be. We enjoy good homemade meals three times a day together. We enjoy the beautiful land God has given us by going on hikes through patches of Pines and Quakies and open meadows, floating the river with inner tubes and observing all kinds of wild animals. It's BEAUTIFUL! The sky in Montana is amazing! We get together with a few friends/relatives a few times and sometimes a friend may come from afar. It's life at its simplest and at its best. Don't know if it helps me much vocally, but my family and I come back refreshed and I am anxious and grateful to sing for God again!

Sandra said...

I think, because we're retired, we're "living" our off season! But, your story about MJ enforces my commitment to go to the gym this morning -- I guess because good health has become our "job." But, rest assured, I WON'T be working on my jump shot! :)