NLTA Vice-President

Dedicated to my grandfather, Baxter Langdon; small in stature but walked tall with integrity...

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Closer (written in August of 2017)

‘The Closer’; a title often earned in business circles describing that person who can ‘seal the deal’, drive home an idea, finish the project on time, handle the high-profile situations, or bring the team to the next level. 

Such a valuable skill set to have but yet, heavy on responsibility and pressure (whether it be self or group-induced).

Are you that staff person in your professional setting?

Do you know that individual in your family or professional environment?

Are you forced into playing this role?

Do you have a desire to become that person?
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A case study for your thoughts...

‘The Closer’ - Roberto Osuna 
[Pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays; 27 Saves & an Earned Run Average of 2.80 (to date) in the 2017 season]

In an atypical, yet extremely brave move for a professional athlete, Roberto offered the following comments to a reporter in late July...

"I really don't know how to explain it. I just feel anxious. I feel like I'm lost a little bit right now,"
"This has nothing to do with me being on the field. I feel great out there. It's just when I'm out of baseball, when I'm not on the field, that I feel just weird and a little bit lost."
"I wish I knew how to get out of this, but we're working on it, trying to find ways to see what can make me feel better," he said. "But, to be honest, I just don't know."
       (ESPN.com news services, June 24th, 2017)
So...what were your immediate thoughts on reading these comments from a well-paid, highly-touted, professional athlete in such a high stakes role?

Thoughts?

(In the competitive world of the professional sporting business, this disclosure will certainly affect his effectiveness on the mound.) 

(It will definitely impact his marketability as a closer for other teams that may have an interest.) 

(His teammates will have less faith in his mental toughness during the critical times he is called into action.)

(It will undoubtedly impact his intimidation factor for the opponent.)

(He will have a short career if he is experiencing such adversity at such an early age.)

I am sure these and many other thoughts crossed the minds of Blue Jays fans, other teams, sports reporters, Blue Jays management, as well as casual onlookers to the sport. It is apparent however that he is receiving the necessary supports to deal with his ongoing battle with anxiety.

But what Roberto has done here is simply lay himself out there. A move that, whether intentional or not, was highly sincere and genuine, from a person in need of support. He has stated that when he is on the mound, he is able to place his anxiety ‘on the shelf’ and he is able to focus on the challenge at hand. Not an uncommon situation for a person who experiences ‘high-functioning’ anxiety and relies on routine to keep things in order. Your staff or group of employees may have an individual who has openly disclosed similar difficulties.

So what can be taken away?

Roberto has lent his face as a popular and credible face of anxiety. We will have to wait and see if his comments will influence his treatment from other parties. Life goes on for Roberto and for the millions of others that struggle to keep the anxiety demons at bay, while leading highly productive lives. It can hit any one of us at any stage; it may also present itself in many forms.

We will always have our ‘secret-keepers’ who will keep their cards ‘close to their chests’ regarding their struggles. We must minimize the impacts by offering workspaces that allow for wellness activities, reasonable expectations, and the possibility for open dialogue.When identified, there must be clear treatment options and access to services such a employee assistance programs and counselling insurance coverage.

Mental health promotion and stress reduction must be built into educational curricula for students as well as amateur athletes and young professionals. It is a highly personal decision to share this information. Individuals should not feel forced into sharing their struggles with the public or their employer to legitimize it however, we need to ensure that private supports exist.

To those leaders (and closers) out there struggling quietly with anxiety, respect yourself for the decision to keep this a private issue for yourself. You have the right to do so. But let’s respect others out there that have decided to go public with their own personal battle as a means of invoking change and finding individual supports for themselves.

I had the pleasure of seeing Roberto in action this summer, not long after his public disclosure, and he did not disappoint.

Thanks Roberto, for contributing to the normalization of anxiety in our lives and that we are all surprisingly mortal.

Suggested Resources:

For Professionals: The Office Yogi                     

For Educators: Resources from the Psychology Foundaion of Canada

For Anyone: Mental Health Commission of Canada / Mental Health First Aid Canada