dr. rob bell Notre DameThe weekend was planned, Friday night, my family and I went to the Notre Dame football pep rally, visited the locker-room (touched the famous sign) and went on the field. Friday was incredible!

Saturday, we were going to the Notre Dame game versus North Carolina. All set! Now, my children are 6 & 4 years old, not exactly pre-game connoisseurs and we were staying on a lake about 30 minutes outside of South Bend. So we planned to arrive at 1:00 (game is at 3:30), watch the player walk, listen to the band & the trumpets play in the main hall, visit the grotto, etc.  All awesome traditions.

We parked, walked about 15 minutes and arrived in time to settle in & watch the player walk! I spy a guy selling tickets and then it hits me! I FORGOT THE TICKETS!

One rule I think in life, is that you don’t forget the tickets!!!! It’s basically the only thing you need to remember going to a game.


ANGER was my initial reaction, it always is when I mess up. I hate it. I frankly despise that part of me. But, it was my reaction, not my response!  My reaction is usually incorrect, because it is filled with emotion. Our response on the other hand is often correct.

BLAME was my 2nd knee-jerk reaction. I turned to my wife looking for someone to blame. I stopped this pretty quickly, because I knew it wasn’t her fault. Although I did mention earlier that she should be in charge of the tickets.

DECISION-MAKING time followed and quick. There was honestly no time to waste! Do we all walk 15 minutes back and then drive to get the tickets, or do the wife & kids stay? Very quickly, we decided. Let’s all go, stay together, we are a team.

STAY COMPOSED I thought.  Now, when one has kids, everything is magnified. Travel, messes, and especially stress levels. As a parent of two, the stress levels automatically increase a notch in general because there are just more things to take care of. At this moment, I was extremely aware of my kids! I must maintain composure because I do not want to model the behavior of losing it in front of them. I threw my son on my shoulders and tried to enjoy the walk back, while FUMING inside!

ANGER returned soon thereafter and this time it was directed inward. This emotion lasted much longer and manifested itself with my own verbal self-talk OUT LOUD! I (for some reason) needed to have this verbal boxing match out in the open and not just inside my own head. We are driving back and I am berating myself out loud (the kids have their headphones on watching a movie).

Here is a sample of some of the kind words I spoke: “You piece of shit”, “what is wrong with you”, “how could you be so stupid” “You call yourself a human being”? All top-notch affirmations!

After 10 minutes, I asked my wife, “Do you have anything to offer to this conversation I am having with myself?” She said, “what would you tell your athletes or coaches?”

I said  “Do the next right thing”, “Let it go”,”Re-focus”  and “rely on the fact that this happened for a reason”!  After that I was good, almost completley back emotionally. We arrived back to the stadium just in time to walk in and watch our 1st Notre Dame game. Now, I don’t know the reason why I forgot the tickets, maybe it prevented an accident? We will never know because “what-if” never happened. IMG_4360

What did I learn? 

It reinforced that we are human, we are going to make mistakes. It’s all how we respond to the situation and not how we react. People often fear the blame more than the actual mistakes as well! The situation and reaction all taught me more about myself and how I can grow as a person and as a coach. “That which hurts, instructs.” – Ben Franklin

Lastly & most importantly- What if it had been my wife who forgot the tickets? Would I have been able to extend grace and compassion onto her, or would my anger have been directed outwardly? Coaching and loving on others requires grace, sometimes extra grace is required for ourselves.

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Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness