When I attend a sporting event as a fan, the actual game and its outcome tend to become secondary. Instead, I find myself watching the officials. Perhaps that is because I am married to one.
While I don’t get fixated on what kind of game they are calling, I do watch the evolution of what is happening physically to an official as a game progresses. From the stands, I can see the creases tighten around their eyes, the clenching of their lower jaws and sense the grinding sensation when the officials toot their whistles.
As angst is heightened and intensity seemingly building with each stoppage of play, I want to shout from the stands, “Concentrate on your breathing!” Breathing is the root of calmness in a sea of trouble, whether in life or for an official in an athletic contest.
During a timeout, or any other game stoppage, that small moment can restore a sense of focus and reclaim an aura of calm. Focusing on your breathing isn’t a difficult task and the benefits can be immense.
Too often, shallow and quick breaths are exhibited in times of stress and strain. Instead, try deep, bold and fulfilling breaths that clear the mind and chase away the negativity. Take a moment to feel each breath. There is a beginning, middle and end to each breath we take. Don’t miss any of it, even as you prepare for that 60-second timeout to expire.
There are other moments when officials can focus on their breathing in preparation for working a game. When an official arrives at an assignment, he or she should consider taking a couple of minutes of quiet time in the car. Unclutter the mind with deep cleansing breaths.
After the pregame conference with the crew, focusing on your breathing while stretching is a healthy recipe to calmness, being less anxious, lowering blood pressure and exuding more patience. Calming the nervous system means better concentration and a general feeling of bliss as we go about our endeavors.
You’ve worked hard at becoming an official. When you reach into your tool bag to work a game, don’t forget your breathing. There are moments when it can become your most important tool of all.
Denise Leighton is a registered yoga instructor with Life Time Fitness, a Minnesota-based health and wellness company.