I’ve been watching a lot of college basketball recently as the NCAA men’s tournament is in full swing and I have been reminded of two very important lessons that I’d like to share with you.  First, I have been reminded of how impossible it is to predict the future, no matter how sure you just “know” what is going to happen.  I just knew Kansas was going to win it all–I would have put money on that “fact”–wait, I DID put money on that “fact”!   My NCAA brackets have never been so broken after just two rounds–a great lesson in humility.

The other lesson for me this year is the importance of a well-timed timeout.  Timeouts are a very important part of a coach’s strategy and the art of knowing when to call one is a gift that great coaches possess.  So what constitutes a well-timed timeout?  It seems that there are two clear cases when a timeout is most effective.  The first is when the game is suddenly getting out of had and your team is on the edge of falling apart.  The other team has just scored eight unanswered points and your team is flustered having just made its second unforced turnover.  A timeout gives the coach a chance to help his team regroup.

The second occasion that calls for a timeout, is when your team has a really important play that is has to make.  There’s ten seconds left in the half or the game and the score is tied.  A time out by either coach will help their team prepare their best play, or their best defense.  A timeout helps them be able to prepare and be sure that they are in sync so that the can make their best effort.

The importance of a well-timed timeout is as essential to our own personal and family wellness as it is to a winning basketball team.  And the best times for these timeouts is very similar.  Whenever you find yourself getting flustered or falling apart because life is getting out of had, it’s a great time to call a timeout:   A parent who is stressed out by their kids and is about to say something they are really going to regret, needs a timeout (kids aren’t the only ones that need be given timeouts–sometimes parents need to give a timeout to themselves.)    A couple who find themselves flooded with emotion as a fight is escalating needs a timeout.  This kind of timeout does not ignore the conflict, but gives the couple a chance to calm down and reengage each other with cooler heads and softer hearts.    A family that is going 90 miles an hour in five different directions needs a timeout just to have time to slow down, reconnect and remind one another of the priority of family.

Timeouts are also essential for our personal and family life when we need to plan for special times:  vacations, holidays, family celebrations, or an important transition or decision.  The purpose of these timeouts is to pause long enough so that an intentional game plan can be developed to maximize the enjoyment of the upcoming event or decision.  It is also a time to get the whole “team” on board with the plan and if necessary to make changes to the plan to get everyone’s full commitment.  Special occasions in our lives call for special time to plan for them and be intentional as we move in to them.

A basketball coach has a limited number of timeouts he/she can call each game..  The good news for us is that we have no such limits.  As the coaches of our own lives and as the coaches of our families, we are free to call as many timeouts as we need.  The important thing is realize when the need is there and then to not hesitate to make the call.

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