When you’re four, timeout is the dreaded penance for slathering your little brother in mayonnaise or wearing your mother’s heels into the creek.
But at some point, there comes a switch when timeout goes from being a feared punishment to a coveted, delectable escape. Four-year-olds don’t get that yet. I don’t remember if I got it as a teenager, either. But I certainly relish the thought of a timeout now. This deep gratitude for timeouts hit me this weekend as I chased internet access all over the Middle East. I had a handful of pressing deadlines to accomplish before our practice in Beit Sahour (Bethlehem), but however I contorted myself, the ever-waning radius of internet connectivity failed to reach my normal spot at home – hunched on the floor against the front door of my apartment. Tired of getting nowhere, I packed up my stuff and headed for a café in hopes of finding a quiet table in the one place that’s open in all of Jerusalem on Shabbat. But no matter where I tucked myself in relation to the screaming children, tai chi performers, and ice cream vendors at the Old Train Station, I couldn’t seem to connect. Trying a few more places, my productivity and patience were crumbling and the small window of time I had for work was slamming shut. Stress level maxing out and officially in tears, I boarded the bus for the crossing to Bethlehem. I had no capacity left in me to haggle with the taxi driver and finally arrived at a café not far from our practice site completely drained and out most of my extra cash…just in time for their power outage.
On the frisbee field, the energy of the entire game can shift in a moment. A huge layout D in the endzone; a monstrous catch; a grueling upwind break on a tough zone defense; or simply a timeout. (When my team from home calls a timeout, everyone rushes the field and dances to bluegrass while the seven on the field strategize. It picks up the energy and sometimes even our opponents can’t help but join in. Even in the most stressful circumstances, I find that timeouts bring a joyful team bonding moment.) How do we use the moments we give ourselves to reorient our perception of reality? As coaches, how can we shift the energy of a frustrated team? Sometimes it’s strategizing and talking through the objectives, sometimes it’s more of an emotional pep talk, and sometimes it’s simply a deep, collective breath.
Still swimming in frustration, I vowed to leave all of the negativity outside of the gate when I finally arrived at practice. But I didn’t have to focus on this because the moment I stepped on the court, all of the morning’s aggravations absolved into laughter and basic joy of the game. Over the next two hours, I didn’t think at all about cables or connectivity or deadlines, but instead about coaching and being with this awesome group of kids as they learned how to break the mark and position themselves for downfield defense. Our Beit Sahour team typically has pretty high spirit, but this Saturday they were beaming and dancing and high fiving all over the place. They were goofy but focused, scattered but diligent. As I watched them play, I realized that we use timeouts to reset our focus on the field, but that ultimate – and especially Ultimate Peace – is in itself a life timeout. A way to reset and re-center ourselves when the world outside simply isn’t operating the way we’d like it to. And we have the power to expand the benefits of that timeout bubble. To take the joy of play and the values we’re emphasizing and pass them along. To take that energy we gather as a team and reflect back in our actions. To collectively adjust our perception of the field and use that moment to change the game.