A Fresh Perspective - 10.20.97

I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point in my life, I got a bit of a competitive edge. It may have been one of the first times that I booted a home run in kick ball, or it may have been the first time I won in a race with my bike. It doesn't matter when it happened, but at some point it did, and it's been going ever since. If you're interested in sports, it's something that is very beneficial in competition. It's one of those things (like many others) that's a good thing until you have too much of it.

When I first started playing organized sports, it didn't really matter to me whether I won or lost the game. For some reason, I had pretty good coaches and they actually taught me the side of sports that was all about physical well-being and the thrill of competition. Everyone got their chances to play and for the most part, it wasn't about coming out on top. It was more about learning the game and trying to have a little fun with it. After awhile, though, things started changing. Little by litte, I started to get coaches that taught winning as the most important thing. I specifically remember one coach showing us ways to cheap shot other players in junior high football. I'm not sure whether this was the beginning of the bad for me, or just the point that I started realizing it.

Soon after that, things started changing drastically. Not everyone that went out got to play and coaches started actually yelling at players. Good plays were made and nothing was said, but if a bad play was made, you'd hear all about what you did wrong. High school sports perpetuated this problem even more. Players were actually cut from the team depending on their ability and coaches relied on players to win so they could keep their jobs. All in all, it was kind of the opposite of what I had been taught in the first place. It was somewhere in here that my competitive spirit got pushed beyond the point where it is simply a good thing. I was never a star player myself, but there were times when I told fellow players what they could be doing differently. I also got in trouble a couple times for swearing after I thought I had screwed up.

When I went off to college, I didn't play any organized team sports, but the over-competitiveness was still there from high-school. I'd kick the walls if I goofed up while playing raquetball or swear aloud if I made an error during a basketball game. I didn't even really think about how stupid I must have looked until someone finally called me on it. Here was a college-age person, stomping and slamming around because they had mishit a ball or made a bad pass. It took someone who was never really involved in organized sports to say something to me and make me think back to what I had first learned about sports. He had never been taught football cheapshots and he'd never been told by a high-school coach that he "fucking sucks," but he did offer me a fresh perspective again. Along the way, I had somehow lost what made the games fun to me in the first place. I had instead been turned into someone who only cared about winning.

I still get upset with myself sometimes, and I've even been known to make an occassional smart-ass comment, but I've chilled out for the most part. All it really takes is a look or a snide retort and I know that I've said something dumb. It's taken awhile to get the over-competitiveness out of my system, but I think I've finally starting to enjoy sports again for what they are.