The Most Important Thing I Missed

On Monday I entered Roberts Pavilion on the campus of my alma mater to catch part of the women’s basketball practice and speak with the team. When I walked in the double doors the team was assembled on the baseline facing away from me. One of the assistants was giving instruction for the upcoming defensive drill and the head coach gave a wave and said, “Hey Coach, we’ll be with you after this one.”

That’s when I heard it.

“Bets!”

A player suddenly broke from the middle of the line and came running over. As she did I realized it was Shaina, a gal I had given private lessons to 5 years ago while coaching at Occidental College. “Sorry, I’m sweaty” she said as she wrapped me in a hug before dashing back in line.

I gave the head coach an apologetic wave for interrupting to which she smiled and mouthed, “It’s okay!”.

I slipped back through the double doors and into the quiet of the hallway just as the fullness in my chest became the wetness in my eyes.

That hug. Nothing could have prepared me for that hug. One small, genuine gesture instantly reaffirmed every decision I’d ever made in a life of coaching.

Before coming to practice I had spent the day in a workshop at Pomona College speaking to coaches and administrators about communication. In addition to a presentation on “Championship Communication” we’d done a breakout session about communication issues and throughout the day the comments from participants continually reinforced the importance of my favorite topic.

I’d just spent an entire day talking about communication and with one hug I realized that I’d missed something.

Time.

Despite all the information I shared in regards to effective communication, I had failed to mention the most important form of communication; how we spend our time.

You’ve likely heard Annie Dillard’s famous words, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” but how often do we stop to think about what our time is communicating?

Think about what it means when someone gives you their time. How we spend our time, where we invest our time, and who we choose to spend our time with all serve to communicate our values and priorities. Whether spoken or not – giving someone your time is in essence giving them a small piece of your life.

We don’t often reflect on the impermanence of time until tragedy strikes, but the constant reality IS that any moment could be our last. When the end of life is near the most common wish is always, and simply, for more time.

Though my time with Shaina was brief, her hug reinforced the value of our time together – in that moment Shaina represented every player I’ve ever coached or recruited. It reminded me of why, over a 10 year career in women’s basketball, I was okay with being constantly broke or exhausted (or both). To those who have given their time in service of others in ANY profession, thank you!

In it’s purest form, giving someone our time or attention communicates that they are important to us. We don’t even have to say a word, simply show up and listen. Be with them - undistracted, solely focused, fully present – even if only for a moment.

Communication.

It’s about time. 

[Thank you for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts on communication and time in the comments below. Also, if you'd like "Lately with Betsy" delivered to your inbox you can subscribe by clicking here].