By Ken Reed
The coronavirus is certainly testing us all. In times like this, it’s natural to look for guidance in dealing with challenges. Wise guidance can come from all areas of life, including the world of sports.
I recently came across some wisdom from two sports figures that I think is applicable to the situation we’re in. These men come from different sports and different eras. Neither is known as great philosophers but their philosophies on how to deal with uncontrollable events and situations in life can help us all deal with the pandemic.
The first sports figure I’m referring to is Urban Meyer, longtime successful college football coach for Utah, Florida and Ohio State. I’ve never been a Meyer fan but I love one of the things he stressed with his players through the years. It’s a simple but powerful equation: E + R = O. Event plus response equals outcome.
“We don’t control the events in life, and we don’t directly control the outcomes,” says Meyer. “But we always have control over how we choose to respond.”
Meyer says the R factor determines the quality of one’s life. Meyer’s goal was to make his players’ R stronger than any E they might encounter during a season.
The second sports figure I want to mention is former Major League Baseball pitcher Don Carman, who primarily pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies. Carman, who’s now a sports psychologist, has a similar life and sports philosophy as Meyer.
“A big part of my philosophy is I don’t get to write the script,” says Carman. “Whatever it is, I just get to respond.”
The philosophies of Meyer and Carman are similar to that of famed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who once said:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Meyer says an important step between the E (event) and R (response) needs to be a pause (P). It’s important to pause and not just react emotionally to an event or situation. A pause gives you time to accept the event or situation and then ask: Now what? What’s important now? What does this situation require of me?
This allows you some time to reflect and for your response to be driven by your values. So the equation can be modified to: E + P + R = O (event + pause + response = outcome).
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response,” said Frankl.
The coronavirus pandemic is a reality. It’s the E in the equation. Now we get to respond (R). How we all respond will impact the ultimate outcome of this pandemic.
I’ll end this discourse with the philosophy of another sports figure, legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith: “Play hard, play smart, play together.” That was Smith’s mission statement for each of his teams throughout his hall-of-fame career.
It applies to all of us. In cases like this, we’re all on the same team. If we’re all smart about what we do during this pandemic, give our best effort to find a way through it and remember that we’re all in this together, we can come out the other side stronger than ever.
And that’s an outcome we can all strive for.
— Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
Sports Forum Podcast
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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