Don’t Blame The Umpire

By Bernard Callus on 17 July 2019

Winter has come! Football is in full swing, and for many codes we are approaching the halfway point of the season. These days I enjoy watching the coaches’ press conferences after each match. I like to see how the coaches respond to difficult questions around their team’s performance. I notice that coaches avoid using specific words and phrases to state their disappointment without sacrificing their players. It amuses me when a reporter asks a coach about the umpiring or the free kick count, especially when there has been an imbalance in the game. I’m always happy to hear the coach reply, “I can’t control the umpiring so I won’t comment on it.” I agree. Don’t blame the umpire!!!

We become powerless when we blame someone else for our situation

When the outcome is not what we want, we often look for someone to blame for our situation. In doing this we inadvertently give all the power to another party to change the outcome. If they had done something differently we would have had a different outcome. By blaming another party we give all the power to them. We make them powerful. Concurrently, we give away our power, we become powerless. In other words we give up our power to change our own fate. In sport, no doubt our team occasionally might get a raw deal with the umpiring, however, by focusing on the umpire we are, in affect, saying we are powerless to change our own fate. Professional teams aren’t about that. Well-done coach.

Be responsible and get your power back

Conversely, when we take full responsibility for the outcome we retain our power. We are powerful. We can then powerfully address all the deficiencies and implement new processes and systems to produce new and better outcomes. When the coach isn’t drawn into the umpiring debate he is saying, in effect, “we are in charge of our own destiny, not the umpire.”

Being responsible frees up your team

As a team leader, one thing I discovered in being responsible for everything that went wrong was that I also free up my team. Rather than chastise my team for their mistakes, when I take responsibility for their actions, I give them freedom to fail, to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go again. When I am willing to be responsible this says to them, “It’s okay, I got your back.” Conversely, if I delegate the responsibility onto them I constrain them, making them more worried about failing next time. No one performs optimally when they fear failure. I find it pleasing to hear the coach say, “I am responsible for the team’s failures.” They understand the power and freeing effect on their players when they take responsibility. No wonder professional sport is “90% between the ears.”

Our words are powerful; they can empower or disable. The question is do you ever feel powerless? Do you avoid accepting responsibility? Perhaps it’s time for that overdue conversation with a colleague, friend or family member and admit your past shortcomings, take responsibility for your future actions and get your power back?