Sport, Competitiveness, and the 30-ish-year-old

I have been playing basketball since I was 17 or so. When I was a teenager I wasn't much into sport - I was a library dweller during school lunchtimes - but when I was in Year 11 or 12 my friend David asked me to play basketball in an F-grade team (he had never played before either). I didn't dribble the ball at all that first season and didn't shoot a goal, but it started something.

My bro Simon pushed me to get better. He always beat me down at the local court even though I was taller (not anymore!) and older. I started to practice every night after school to get better at my one thing. I still can't kick a footy or bowl a cricket ball...all my eggs are in the one basket(ball). Boom boom.

During the time I was hard at improving I played with a team my mate Jarrod had something to do with through his church. He didn't always play but I soon got to know the other guys on the team and I felt pretty confortable playing. The grade was higher than F-grade and it was a small and friendly competition. We used to play in a high school gym where the court was not quite full size, the roof was low (most everyone's 3-pointers hit the ceiling) and there was no room to sit or stand around the edges of the court as the gym hall was only as big as the court (when that ball was going out of bounds, better to leave it). I remember playing most weeks before the game at Jarrod's place, in his driveway. He beat me every game for 2 years before I won one!

Fast forward to today. I guess I think of the basketball history I have related mainly as an increase and growth in skill terms, but somewhere along the way I learned to be competitive and have an "attitude", to get angry when I lose and boastful when I win. I don't think I'm alone in these feelings but increasingly I see around me destructive examples of competitiveness, and constructive ones. I'm definitely in the camp of the "destructive" tendencies; sulking, fuming, giving up, blaming and being negative towards my team-mates when we lose (and sometimes when we win). Perhaps I hide it well on the outside, but I can tell you when it happens it's pretty unattractive for an immature child, let alone a thirty-something!

OK, this sounds pretty heavy and perhaps hard on myself, but I have often asked myself - what if I won every game and hated it? Wouldn't it be better to have a good attitude regardless of whether I won, drew or lost?

Jarrod (whom I'm still good mates with 14 years later) helped me out recently by setting me the simple task of a) running the whole game, and b) saying something encouraging to each player on the team. He went even further to say that in his experience, for every negative thing you say to a player (even if it's in the vein of constructive criticism) you have to say 9 positive things. I don't take that as advice to be sugary or insincere, but rather to focus on encouragement and noticing the good things that different players bring to the game. For me it's important to work on the attitude rather than just focusing on the physical (like winning or losing the game at hand).

Physically, I hope I'm still mobile enough to play at 50 years old, and at some stage am able to play on a team with my children. Attitude-wise, I hope people want to play on teams with me and I hope I can enjoy those potential 20 more years (Lord willing) of basketball. At 31 it's not hard to see that my ability and fitness level have dropped off over the last 3 or 4 years. But, I can accept that this is not a barrier to my enjoyment of the game. I want to keep working on my attitude so I can say I did my best, each game, and be a "good sport" that makes the players around him better.

3 Responses to "Sport, Competitiveness, and the 30-ish-year-old"

Anonymous said... Wednesday, September 01, 2004 10:11:00 PM

You know, I think that you are a great basketballer - you taught me everything I know!!
You have been hard on yourself, and I don't think that you are giving yourself credit for all the great things that you do within basketball and the team. Sure there are times when the "angry eyes" need to be put away, but most of the time you are encouraging, sharing and good to be around. I love to play with you every week!

Simon said... Friday, September 03, 2004 2:40:00 AM

Doh! Who stole my comment?!!!

Actually the whole "Ace-man" tag came when bros. dave and sime were watching Tom murdering the opposition in one of those small court games. Tom was doing it all, O, D and Fs, but not too many. When a player gets so good he needs a nickname, and Aussies are never ones to back down in such a time of need, so we played with the obvious- Tiny Tommy, Tommy Tinman Too Tough To Beat, and Simon's Bro, when suddenly Dave shouted in a moment of inspiration "Tom-Ace", which soon became just 'Ace', then 'The Ace-man' when any connection with Superman could be avoided, although I know Tom plays with nerves of steel, even if his bod is a lot softer and bulgier these days. And how could we forget Boulger?

I was more the Lex Luther on the court thus never got my own nick-name, something which has fueled the rivalry and will likely see me take one more attempt to beat the local Super-hero on my next venture into his territory.

And I think the 'tude is gude! Except for a couple of times when I really saw you giving me that heat-ray vision stare, and I think you embodied the best of Clarke Kent's mild-mannerisms with Superman's strength and ability to get the shot up whilst being fouled by all the players on both teams, the refs and the cheer-leaders. But more than that you have embodied Lois Lane's looks and legs, and for that you will always be...

TOM-ACE-MAN

Thomas said... Wednesday, September 08, 2004 8:29:00 PM

Simey-Wimey-Who-Can-Never-Be-Stimied, thanks for the encouragement and history of the nick name that you stuck me with (I do like it though!)

I'd always thought the name came around because I liked the band "Ace of Base" (remember "I saw the sign"???)

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