Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

Confined to Captivity

What keeps leaders confined to captivity?  Confined to spaces and places that restrict us from making forward progress.  Captive to the things that keep us from getting outside of the proverbial box. 

The Dugout

Our travel baseball season wrapped up this weekend in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.  We played in the Ripken Experience, a tournament facility co-founded by Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother Billy Ripken.  They desired to create a tournament program that honored the fundamentals that their father taught them growing up. 

It was the second year that we had taken the boys there.  It’s always a great experience and professionally run.  This year, I had to take issue with one small thing that impacted me in a big way.  They required the coaches to stay inside the dugout!  I was confined to captivity! 

The Struggle

I have coached youth sports for my entire adult life.  Baseball, wrestling, and football.  In football, I struggled to be confined by the sideline.  I often could be found over the sideline, at times near the numbers.  In wrestling, I was free to push the limits of the corner that attempted to confine me. 

In baseball, I have always coached the bases while we are on offense.  When our team is on defense, I typically stand outside the dugout.  I am able to coach the boys without barriers.  Position them, instruct them, encourage them, and when needed…get on them!

As I was unnecessarily confined to the dugout, I reflected on three things that hold us captive in our leadership journeys.  Here are a few thoughts on their application to leadership:


While it is likely written into most rule books, every other tournament organizer allows us to be outside the dugout.  We will even set up a whole encampment of buckets to sit on…really pushing the limits of the rules!   

The dugout rules are there for a reason.  The biggest reason is safety.  If we are in the dugout where we should be, we are less likely to get hit by a batted ball.  We are also less likely to interfere with a live ball that is in play.  The confinement of the dugout keeps us safe from outside forces and at times ourselves.

In leadership, rules can get in the way and hold us captive.  While at times they can make it difficult to exercise common sense, to get to yes, and keep us from making what we feel is the right decision, they are there for a reason.  To keep us safe from outside and inward forces.     

Comfort Zone

I had grown comfortable over the years with roaming freely outside the dugout.  After the second warning from the umpire, I figured it was time to comply with being held captive.  I paced up and down the dugout a few times, uncomfortable with the captivity. 

Upon the harsh realization I wasn’t going on the field, I decided to take a seat.  They had some really nice benches, ones with high backs that you could sit on top of.    

Outside of the dugout was my comfort zone.  What I found was this, I was fully capable of coaching from there.  It was a simple mental barrier for me.  In fact, the captivity probably calmed me and the players as well.  I was less intense and cast less anxiety on them. 

As leaders, we can easily become confined to the captivity of our comfort zones.  The tried and true.  The methods, the strategies, and the way things have always worked.    

Most of our best ideas have come from outside our comfort zone.  The territory that we are least familiar with.  It can expand our horizons, create different Vantage Points, and allows us to see things from a different perspective.  Getting comfortable being uncomfortable stretches us.


The benefits of being further down the path of leadership is that we gain experience.  The confining part of being further down the path of leadership is we can fall captive to that same experience. 

Experience can hold us captive to cynicism.  The things that went wrong along the way.  We have seen it all, we know how the story ends.  We tend to see the darkness of the tunnel, rather than the light at the end of it.

Too often we can let our experience stand in the way of new and different ways of doing things.  Not only can this confine us to the captivity of the way we have always done things, but it can also do the same for those we are entrusted to lead.  It can impair our ability to listen to others and to genuinely hear what they are saying, leaving us confined to only our experiences.   


Rules are usually imposed by others, like having to stay in a dugout.  Caged in by a fence built by others. 

Getting Stuck in comfort zones and our confining experiences are self-imposed.  If you are anything like me, I can easily construct my own leadership dugout.  One that is fully capable of confining me to where I am now, preventing me from where I desire to be.  A dugout that holds me captive to my fears, my thoughts, and hesitations.    

My best advice for me, my best advice for you is this…awareness.  The first step in escaping the confinement and captivity we find ourselves in is to realize we are there in the first place.  Once we realize where we are, we can stop it from keeping us from getting where we are going.      


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