By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Situational awareness: Basketbrawls, politics, business

November 9, 2022, 12:36 pm

"In today’s dynamic world, your effectiveness … depends 
on your readiness to adjust quickly to the moments of need or opportunity, adversity, and change.” — Jennifer Touma

One of the trending topics this morning is the punching spree that occurred during the NCAA basketball game yesterday between College of Saint Benilde (CSB) and Jose Rizal University (JRU). Apparently, one of the JRU players lost his cool, ran towards the CSB bench and punched three players and violently pushed a fourth one. Although basketball brawls are normal in this country, this incident is notable because it had one player going against the entire opposing team and coming out physically unscathed.  

A lot of people have already chimed in and given their opinions on the matter. Most people’s comments centered on sports violence, unsportsmanlike behavior (ironically the JRU player is a 2018 NCAA Sportsmanship awardee), systemic problems, and even breeding. As usual, this piece would like to look at the incident from an oblique or different angle and use the incident to start a discussion on situational awareness and how that player from JRU, to a certain degree, displayed momentary situational awareness.

Situational awareness is knowing what is happening around you in terms of where you are, where you are supposed to be, and knowing whether anyone or anything around you, is a threat to you. This is an extremely useful skill for everyone.

I would like to stress that I do not condone his actions. I would like, however, to use the incident to illustrate a skill that can be used for other situations. Try and watch the videos and take note. First, no one from his own JRU side was able to stop him because he ran through the back aisle using the chairs to block them. Second, as he ran towards the opposing bench alone, he was able to deftly avoid all the punches thrown at him. Third, among those confronting him, he was able to identify the person he could reach first and decked him with a single punch then use his arms to defend himself from the blows of the other players. Fourth, by using the inevitable peace makers as screens, he was able to punch and floor two more players and then push a fourth one. During all this time, no one was able to land a significant blow on him despite the fact that he was in the opposing bench surrounded by the opposing team.

There are several concepts, theories, and models surrounding situational awareness. There is a general consensus, however, on the basics of situational awareness.

First one must be able to perceive and gather information around you or your organization. This might seem simple but people rarely pay attention to their environment nor read news that do not interest them. Information is a very important asset and everyone must take efforts to scan their environment. Information gathering can be done methodically or through quick glances. The JRU player clearly has the unique ability to quickly scan his surrounding and instantly or instinctively (probably through experience in similar incidents) and see the threats around him. For most people gathering information is a skill developed. In politics or competitive business, some political operators or business operators maintain war rooms or situational boards where they post information about the environment such as past data, present news, and opinions of key source persons. These information bits are the starting point for developing situational awareness. Other people call this mindfulness or simply paying attention.

The second aspect of situational awareness is assessing the information. One must understand which information is relevant and from there identify the threats. The JRU player was able to assess which of the persons around him were immediate threats and possible inadvertent allies (people trying to pacify the situation were in effect inadvertent allies). Also, flashback a few months ago, this same player was involved with a scuffle with a player from Letran. This time, he stopped himself from escalating the confrontation. What was the difference? The Letran player was bigger and stronger than him and he was aware that a physical confrontation would end badly. In politics and business, gaming and scenario-making exercises are ways in which one can assess the information gathered and identify the threats. This step can also include anticipating specific threats.

Finally, after gathering information and assessing them, one must now adapt, adjust and utilize the information and act. The action can be either fight or flight. In the said NCAA game, the JRU player was able to attack the apparent threat which was one of the CSB players who was readying to punch him and punch him first. After that, he punched two players who were unprepared and ran behind so called cooler heads trying to diffuse the situation and escape the scene with two opposing players down on the ground. In business and politics, one can either use the information to evade confrontation or initiate actions against potential threats.

These skills can be either natural or learned. Through experience and practice, people and organizations can develop quick situational awareness and response.

It must be remembered, however, that in certain instances, situational awareness alone cannot guarantee eventual success. With the JRU player, his situational awareness might have enabled him to escape immediate physical consequences but his lack of forward thinking decision making abilities and long-term consequences projection will undoubtedly cause him negative long term career ending consequences.  

In sports, business, politics or life in general, several skills are needed to succeed. One must just look at current events with an oblique filter and learn.

This is my oblique observation.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Office of the Press Secretary.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.