Put Your Oxygen Mask on First!

Oxygen Mask First Assisting Others Pressure Breathing Calm

No doubt you’ve heard the safety briefing a million times, but have you ever realized it applies to the softball field?

You can’t take a flight without hearing a long list of things to do in the event everything goes wrong. Read on to discover how this will help your performance under pressure.

As the softball season starts across the country, tensions will start getting higher and pressures will start to mount. We try to make our practices as game-like as possible, and then game-time comes and we watch our players, or our teammates, or our daughters act like they’ve never played the game. Why is that, and how does that happen?

We’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s review the safety briefing – it goes something like this:

“In the event the cabin loses pressure: an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others”

Sounds simple, if you’re even listening when it’s given. Most of us are getting comfortable in our seats and wondering how long the flight will last to even bother paying attention to someone standing in the middle of the aisle wearing a life-vest and telling us something about the yellow mask they’re holding.

Well, pressure is a funny thing – and I don’t mean funny ha-ha. We all feel it differently, but we all feel it. And once we feel pressure we usually can’t remember what’s important (like the safety briefing), and that leads to panic (not good).

What made me think of all this was I was watching a game recently where the pitcher was pitching fine, but the other team was bunting their brains out in an effort to completely frustrate and destroy the 3rd baseman. Their plan was successful and it wasn’t long before the pitcher was trying too hard to help her struggling teammate, which only made her pitching worse, which then allowed the opponents to start crushing the ball.

What the pitcher did was noble – trying hard to help her teammate – but she forgot one very important part of the safety briefing…”put your Oxygen Mask on First, before helping others”. Obviously, there aren’t any oxygen masks that drop-down from overhead on the softball field, but the advice still applies. In order to use the oxygen mask you have to breathe – in fact, they suggest you breathe normally (kind of hard to do when you’re panicking). The simple act of breathing will help calm you down, and then once you’re calmer, you’re able to help someone around you, like a struggling teammate.

The pitcher I was watching needed to calm herself down first, before trying to adjust her pitching to help her teammate. Or in other words, she needed to put her oxygen mask on first!

This advice also applies to coaches and parents. When you feel you’re getting upset and starting to panic, imagine grabbing the oxygen mask from overhead and taking a few deep breaths, BEFORE trying to help anyone around you. You’ll notice that once you calm yourself down a bit, your help will be of a much higher quality, your thinking will be clearer and the results will be much more effective!

For more help with this topic, check out our book:

A Coach’s Guide to Creating Team Chemistry

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