Basketball is still in the air this week! Hoops in the driveway – the final four this Saturday – and over on Delancey Place – a book review about the invention of “basket ball” (more HERE).
And so with this in mind, I thought I would share about one of the BEST youth basketball games – ever! It was August 2010. It was a casual summer league. We were not really paying attention to these games because they were more like “practice and keep your skills up” activity – but somehow – we all ended up attending the last game of the summer with this Hanover County league.
I am not even sure why we all piled into the truck that night, but there we were – a small group of us – at the school gym – under the yellowish fluorescent lights, cheering on my youngest son – and his purple shirted team.
I had a couple of calls to make, which I made out in the hall – while the teams were warming up.
Purple was playing blue and everything seemed so average as they ran the warm-up drills.
Who really knew that the game would be such a good match?!#! But it was……
Mark was with us that night.
Mark is a former art student– who used to come and hang out with us at times. This witty – and street wise – young man was cheering on the team with his little deep voice comments. You know, like after a good shot, you’d hear, “Nice…” or subtly – and with authority – he’d say, “Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ bout….” My husband and older son also had their succinct comments too – not aggressive or anything – just active and involved – “great pass” – or “whew….sweet assist…”
The second half of the game was when the fun really began.
Down the bleachers from us -we noticed that the fans for the blue team started getting more and more involved. As “purple rivaled blue” down on the court – there was some healthy competition trickling from the stands now – and more and more we were ALL getting into this well matched game!
Again, I need to mention that this was NOT aggressive cheering – it was healthy, active support.
It was being involved in the game – in a way that was – pure fun.
The players could feel the support too. We noticed that many of them were looking up to the bleachers – especially after a good shot was made. They were playing harder with this active fan support.
Even the refs became aware of the “feel” that was coming from the stands – and with this heightened accountability it was like their whistles were held a little tighter and their posture was more alerted as they moved up and down the court.
The game was close the entire second half – as purple rivaled blue –and of course it came down to a final basket – which before that was made – there was a questionable foul missed – then another questionable foul called –and lots of grunts and muffled comments as we all seem determined to remain contained. Even though we were all standing at times, the healthy feel of cheering on our teams never got out of hand. Wow! What a game.
And on the ride home – my son that played in the game was just sitting there – sweaty – and quietly listening to the all the excited chatter that was bouncing around among us….
When my husband refers to this game, he uses the word “thrilling” to describe it – and it really was!
It was a thrilling game because the players were evenly matched in skill – and because the skilled coaches were not jerks. It was an amazing ball game because the fans had healthy attitudes – we were “into it,” but NOT hostile or uptight!
Now I know there are mixed feelings about “healthy competition” – and earlier this week someone linked me to the most ridiculous thing I have ever read about why we need to focus on “winning” – it was a premise that pivoted with the UNHEALTHY view of competition.
Here’s the thing….. good competition is NOT “all” about winning – this may seem like a paradox – but it is about doing your best, with excellence, and giving your all. It is about executing a good play – and being “in the game” – and while the wins are wanted -and they feel even tastier when earned and fought for!!! – But the win is never the “all in all” – (not at all!) –
Success and self-esteem cannot be defined by external sources of comparative evaluations!
If success is only a result of winning from being “better than” – well it leads to emptiness.
Winning for the sake of winning “turns all of us into losers” and can lead to anger, shame, distrust, lack of NEEDED empathy, and misplaced sources of fulfillment.
If we strive to only dominate – it can be counterproductive to performance – whether that be in the area of sports, business, or academics.
So here’s my take on it. I do believe in healthy competition. I say this as a soccer coach – as a former athlete – as a parent of athletes – and as a fan in the stands.
And while I am so glad our purple team won that night, it still would have been an amazing game no matter the outcome.
When things are in balance – like when coaches, parents, players, and fans are sensible – well a “competitive game” can be absolutely invigorating – even thrilling!
Lastly, for Triple Shot Friday – here are 3 things to check out:
First: Check out this interview with Kobe Bryant-HERE, where the Los Angeles Laker said, “There’s a lot of people out there who don’t believe in having healthy competition,” Bryant said. “I think we have to make it enjoyable and for kids to understand that there’s a certain spirit of competition that’s fun. It’s not nasty, it’s not aggressive, it’s just fun competition, and I think when you have that kids will go out and enjoy themselves. They’ll pick up their activity instead of just plopping down in front of the TV.”
Second: Check out Alfie Kohn’s 1987 article (HERE) with an interesting view on how children succeed “in spite of competition, not because of it.”
and Third: Check out the Naismith’s Original 13 Rules of Basket Ball on Mike Fratello’s blog HERE.