The Circle

I can’t recall when we made this change while I was coaching, but like many teams, and certainly most of the ones I was ever on as a player, we organized our pre game stretching routine in lines, led by the captains and facing in the direction of the opposing team. It always seemed so regimented – even military style – to me. There was plenty of posturing and false bravado that went along with it all.

At some point as a coach, it occurred to me that stretching in a circle formation might be more beneficial. So we made the change, and formed our circle in the far corner of our half-field, essentially as far away as we could get from the midline. What we discovered was that this formation put the team into a better mindset before each game. Why?

I think it had a lot to do with moving our attention from the opponent, to ourselves. In looking across the circle, we were looking at our team, our people, the ones we were entering the contest with. In this way, we were looking “within” rather than outside of ourselves. Being “in the circle” as the first thing we did before a game helped us quite literally, to be centered. We came to realize that it wasn’t about “them,” it was about “us.” And that’s where our attention needed to rest.

In that realization, we understood within “us,” within our team, and within ourselves individually, we had all that we needed to find success. Or, at least we had all that we were ever going to have on that particular day. And we needed to make the very best use of our physical skills, our training, our teamwork and all the time spent in practice perfecting our craft. Our success would come from within. In my experience, too many athletes and teams focus too much attention on their opponent which typically causes anxiety and keeps them from performing at their best.

It’s always that way.

So often we look outside of ourselves at the first sign of stress, boredom or quiet. We tend to want to fill an empty space with “stuff” in order to improve or change whatever moment we’re in. So we shop online, we scroll social media, we go get more stuff, have a drink, anything it seems, rather than being right here, now. We seek something outside, rather than within.

It’s good to pause and take stock of what’s within us. Maybe the answers one is searching for have been right there in our core being all along. Just perpetually buffeted by the winds of distraction? Or maybe there’s no need to even ask the questions? (“Don’t think twice, it’s alright” – Bob Dylan). Maybe we need to face some hard truths head on? What if you could realize that you have everything you need within you already? That there’s nothing you need to get?

Next time you’re feeling the uncomfortable urge that you need something external as a way to make yourself happy, note that you are becoming distracted. Recognize that feeling, then sit with it, allowing it to be just as it is. The feeling will pass, and you may recognize more deeply what’s driving the feeling in the first place. This is the essence of self-awareness.

Consider shifting from straight lines to a circle.

Yours in practice,


ps – I’d love to hear from you – any feedback at all is helpful as I get going on this new blog!

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