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Beware of the Unforced Error

World-records. Frightening injuries. Epic game faces. Renewed cold-war rivalries. I’ve not watched much of the Rio Olympics, but I’ve heard and seen the coverage.

As often the case, the coverage of the Games has generated its own share of coverage. It’s no easy job reporting on the Games. There are hours and hours and pages and pages of analysis needed to fill the gaps between advertisements spanning the two-plus weeks of events. Those hours and pages are bound to yield the occasional slip up here and there. But how do the slip ups happen? Are they unavoidable? Here are a few that captured much attention this past week:

“Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.”

One commentator suggested that “the guy responsible” for Katinka Hosszu’s win of the women’s 400-meter individual medley and new world-record was Shane Tusup, her husband and coach.

Following a qualifying round and discussing the U.S. gymnastics team standing together a commentator stated they, “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall.” (Among other issues, it seems the wrong decade for any mall-based commentary given what’s happening to mall foot-traffic, but I digress.)

To me, these statements suffer from a failure to grasp an important part of communication: timing. In the context of the Olympics, the moment should be squarely on the competitors—win or lose, male or female. If one has ever looked at or set foot in the arena of competition or performance in any domain, athletic or otherwise, one understands that the moment of execution—the success or failure of all the work gone into something—ultimately rests with the competitor/performer so often in a single pivotal moment. Yes, coaches, sparring partners, pace setters, nutritionists, spouses can all have a role in some way. But the execution, the actual pressure-ridden delivery of performance, is the most direct propellant of winning or losing. Some of those covering these Games might benefit from a recalibration of perspective to remember that the moment belongs to the participant. It’s not always necessary or the right time to tell the story behind the story. Sometimes the story right in front of us is the one that needs telling.

So as we head into the last week of the Rio Games and whatever pivotal moments may come, perhaps there’s room to consider the timing that we each insert into our own communications “games”. Focus on what’s right in front of you, and give that its due time. You may find those unforced communications errors start to slide away in the process.