Each summer I play for my inter-county doubles team, and each year I suggest that we have team uniforms, and each year I am told it’s not going to happen. We don’t want to spend the money, we want to wear out own clothes they tell me. So I try and do the next best thing; convince whomever my doubles partner is that week that we should wear the same colour t-shirt and shorts so we look like a team. This is often rebuffed, usually with laughter or mild distain. 'How awesome would it be' I tell them (with great enthusiasm), 'if we showed up to our match looking like a serious team?!' 'No', my partner tells me, 'I don’t care' (with great apathy), 'but how cool would we look???!!!'.....no Adam, just no.
If you play on a rec league basketball or softball team, you happily wear your teams uniform, so why not in Tennis? Is doubles not a team sport? Are we worried our opponent might laugh at us and think we’re (heaven forbid) taking the match too seriously? I say if you look like a team, you'll feel like one and you’ll play like one. So get dressed, match up, and as Men's Wearhouse might tell you, 'you're going to like the way you look' and in this case play.
( Photo Source: puntodebreak.com)
On the day after my 34th birthday I stood and watched my 38 years old brother hustle, grind and emotionally will his way to win his tennis clubs division B tournament. Throughout the course of the match I noticed him mumbling to himself (as he often does during matches) both a positive and negative things. On important winning shots however I heard countless C’MON’s!!..much to the chagrin of his opponent. What’s more, I often heard his opponent audibly laugh as though my brother had said something silly; as though the finals of a rec league B division did not warrant such a show of emotion. One could argue that he was laughing as a means to shrug off my brothers exuberance, but to me it was a sign that he didn't care as much about winning the match.
While there is something to be said about saying C’MON too often in moments where a silent fist pump will suffice, I am a firm believer that after winning a big point, a show of emotion is warranted and can in fact help you in a number of ways. It’s going to get you going for the next few points, keep you energy level up and most importantly, it’ll give your opponent something to think about. They’re going to realize you're up for the challenge and that they’re in for a real fight. Nothing's worse than realizing your opponent cares more about winning than you do.
So the next time you’re playing a match, no matter what the level, no matter what the stakes, don’t ever feel bad for letting a C’MON fly when the moment presents itself. Now go enjoy one of the most mild mannered tennis player ever say C’MON over and over.
Ever wonder how good the pros really are? Ever think to yourself, “If only I had done nothing but play one sport all my life and were blessed with superior genetics, I’d be just as good as them or at least been able to play in college.” Well, the next time these thoughts creep into your mind while sitting on your couch watching Sports Centre, seek out an athlete who played at the college level in whichever sport you THINK you excel at, and compete with them, or better yet, just practice with them and you will receive a lesson in rec league humility.
I’m a tennis player, and believe myself to be a pretty decent one at that (at least at my local club and among the friends I regularly play with). I give most of the players at my club a run for their money. I believe myself to be faster than most of the people I play with and consider my forehand to be a fairly good shot, a weapon in fact. This 'belief' however was called into question when I got the chance to practice with my friend Kevin, a former division 1 US college player.
Ten minutes into our warm-up, I felt pretty good about how I was keeping up. Then I felt compelled to ask Kevin how my shots compared to the players he normally practices with or used to play with in college. His response, “about half the speed and weight I’m used to.” With my ego sufficiently deflated, I requested of Kevin that he rally with the same pace he uses with players at his level. He was more than happy to comply and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
The best way to describe what it was like is to imagine that your opponent gets to hit a tennis ball that, to him, feels like it’s coming out at a leisurely pace from a ball machine, while you get to return a baseball coming at you from a major league pitcher. Scariest of all, is the fact that my absolute best shots (which generally give my friends and fellow club players a hard time) were put away for winners by Kevin with ease.
While I did manage to hit a few shots that caught him off guard, most of the practice consisted of Kevin standing in one spot, moving me from side to side and leaving me in need of water every five minutes.
For my final lesson in humility I asked Kevin if he had a good time hitting with me considering the fact that I hit at half the pace of his usual hitting partners. “Yeah” he responded “it was great, it gave me a chance to practice my put-away shot because your shots land so far inside the baseline…my normal hitting partners don’t usually give me that chance because they hit the ball harder and deeper in the court.”
Back to my original point: how good are the pros really? Kevin the former D1 College player informed me that there are players at his club who are MUCH better than he is who also played at the college level. That’s a scary thought considering how good Kevin is, which really puts the pros into perspective. There are levels, and there are levels on top of levels on top of levels on top of levels…then there are rookie pros, then seasoned pros, then there are the top pros who make the seasoned pros look like me playing Kevin.
Back in 10th grade I decided to jump to the Varsity basketball team a full year earlier than most do. Back then I spent nearly everyday at my local YMCA, the driveway outside my house and recess playing basketball. I took an ungodly number of midrange jumpers and threes from 2 feet beyond the arch to hone my shot. I was (or at least believed I was) a legitimate threat from the outside. At the time the jump to Varsity was a big deal for me, a chance to show that I belonged in a higher level, and as it turns out I did. In my first game I put up 15 points, and while the three I drained to tie the game at the buzzer in the 4th quarter didn’t count because of a bogus traveling call, I knew I was in the right level.
My level jumping however stopped right out of high school, and as most kids who captain their high school basketball team do, I quickly learned just how good I really was. So I started playing rec league ball in what I thought was a decently level. Players were bigger, older and as competitive as I remembered in high school. I was playing in “A” division, which didn’t really mean much because the league consisted of former high school players, not college player (not a lot of dunking in that league to say the least). I was in the upper echelon of players who though they were better than they were because they took their high school team seriously than most.
I continued in this league for the better part of 8 years at which point I called it quits. I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore. Fast-forward 4 years and I had basically stopped playing basketball altogether. I did however start to sub for my brother’s rec team on a weekly basis. It was nice to be out there, back in “A” division, and yet something had changed. I was now 33 years old and the out of high school 19 year olds were breaking my ankles and my shot wasn’t going down the way it used to. Thankfully my court sense was still there and knew how to get the right people the ball at the right time, but still, it bothered me that my shot has betrayed me. What had happened? Well, like most former high school athletes, I have this tendency to remember how good I once was and in turn believed I will always be as talented as I was at my athletic peak, and at a certain point in time this is simply no longer the case. So when I decided to join my friends rec team for the first time in 4 years, I was saddened to see I would be playing in “C” division. I quick look at the competition however put a smile on my face. As it turns out most of the other players I used to play with in “A” were now playing at the same level as myself, and it’s the level I should be in.
The truth is, I don’t shoot around for fun anymore and because of that my shot is simply not and is never going to be what it once was. As we get older, we stop practicing and muscle memory fades. I’m quickly realizing that joining this league is more about being on a team again and remembering how much fun it was to run up and down the court and play a game I used to love and be pretty good at. So to all you rec league players out there, just remember that the sooner you stop clinging to how good you used to be and accept how good you actual are now, the better off and more sane you’ll be.
As I stepped onto the Tennis court with a friend recently, for some strange reason he began our match by apologizing for the black headband he'd just put on. I couldn't understand why he felt the need to even mention it, after all, most of my friends had grown accustomed to seeing me in my matching bandana wristband combo on a regular basis, and I assumed everyone else thought it looked as super duper cool as I did. Apparently not every feels the same way about wearing accessories during sports, even if said accessory is used for its most practical and given purpose, to keep sweat off your forehead and out of your eyes. Still, some club players feel embarrassed about their accessorization for fear their friend or opponent will think they're trying to emulate the pros. This most likely has to do with the fact that while ripping on your buddies is one of the ways male friendships grow, it's also a reason why some men are apprehensive about wearing accessories during their rec league sports.
To alleviate this fear, here are a few guidelines that will help you overcome your internal conflict and allow you to wear a practical tool for keeping sweat out of your eyes.
It creeps up on you and you have no control. The move you used in high school and in your 20s is getting stopped more often than you’d like. You can no longer grab the rim, and they’re blowing by you and you can’t catch up. They are younger, have more energy, jump higher and run faster. "Why is this happening" you ask yourself..."I used to be the fastest guy on the floor, I never got tired and never asked to sub out, what the hell is going on??!!" You……are……getting…….older.
Do not fret my friends because as speed and quickness fade, strength and experience grow. At the rec league level this counts more than you could ever imagine. The just out of high school or college kids are now playing against men, and news flash, that’s you….you are a man, they are still boys. At 32 years old I was a good 10-12 years older than my last opponent. At 5’8’ however I managed to push around a 6’3’ forward, and why, because he'd never lifted a weight in his life. Meanwhile my 35 and older teammates play harder defence than anyone else in the league. When you only play once a week and not three times like when you were 20, it just matters more.
So keep your head up when you lose that first step and when you start to breath a little heavier. You’re getting older that’s for sure, but you’re just getting better.
So you’re in the office talking sports with a few guys, and one of them chimes in and tells you he has a big match coming up that night. His dodgeball team is in the semi finals and he’s fired up about it. What inevitably ensues is a round of laughter, followed by another round of mocking, followed by someone finally saying the words “dodgeball is not a sport.” While I can personally attest to uttering those very words just a few years ago, after speaking with Dave Kutner, former baseball player, golfer, skier and swimmer turned captain of the Canadian Dodgeball team, I have come to realize that nothing could be further from the truth. We recently sat down with Dave to talk all things dodgeball, from how the sport has changed from guys wreaking havoc to a game of strategic and tactical skill.
How did you find Dodgeball and when and why did you start taking it seriously.
I found dodgeball by accident. I was looking for a sport to play one summer during undergrad and Googled "sports in Toronto in the summer" and came across a local dodgeball league. I tried it out and fell in love with it from the moment I stepped on the court. I started to take it seriously as the strategy of the game developed and the level of play increased. When I first started, it was just a bunch of people chucking balls at each other. But the game evolved and I loved the direction it was taking.
What was it about dodgeball that appealed to you more than other sports you played growing up?
I loved the team aspect of the game where the best player didn't win the game, it was the best team. I loved the creative outlet it provided me. There are so many different ways to throw and dodge so you can always have fun trying something new and testing out new moves. Finally, there is the social element. Dodgeball is a game of raw emotion, but when the final whistle blows, the dodgeball community is so tightly knit that it's a big family that you are excited to see every week.
What do you tell guys who say "dodgeball isn’t a real sport"?
I tell them to try it out. If you jump on in a rec league somewhere you will have a good time and get a great workout. If you want to see what competitive dodgeball is really about, there are more competitive leagues as well as competitive tournaments with cash prizes. Sports are determined by the level of strategy needed to compete and while the essence of Dodgeball is still somewhat barbaric, the strategy and tactical side has evolved so much in the last 5 to 8 years. Plays are now being called on the court with rotations and positioning to give you and your team the best shot to take out an opposing player. People who say that dodgeball is not a real sport tend to have never tried it since grade school.
What’s the difference between rec league dodgeball and the international competitions?”
The biggest difference is strategy and understanding of the game. At the rec level, you still get people who throw just as hard as the competitive players, the difference is that they are not able to control their accuracy as well. In addition, if you go and throw as hard as you can without the support of your team, you are an easy target for an opposing player to counter you. Teamwork, accuracy and catching skills are probably the largest differentiation between rec and competitive. The international competitions are the best of the competitive players, so the ones that have played long enough to have a complete understanding and respect for the game.
What’s are the biggest misconceptions guys have about the game when they first enter a league?
That the speed at which you throw does not determine how good you are. There are so many elements to being a well rounded dodgeball player. When I was first starting out, I was one of the hardest throwers, but there was one guy who always caught my ball, no matter how hard I threw it at him. I realized that just throwing hard at his chest gave him the advantage. I started to develop alternative throws (slider, curveball, etc) in order to mix up his timing and placement of his hands (similar to how a baseball pitcher attempts to keep a batter off balance by not just throwing fastballs over the plate).
The other large misconception is how sore you will be the next day. Dodgeball is not just an intense workout, but is also very high impact. As with all sports, remember to stretch and warm up and don't get stuck in the mindset that "it's just dodgeball".
When subbing in for your friends' rec league team, remind yourself that you were probably asked less because you’re just an extra body and more for the fact that your buddy thought you’d be a good addition and hopefully contribute to a winning effort. Here are a few rules to abide by when you get that call an hour before game time:
Remember that you are a direct reflection of your friend who vouched for your ability. You never want a regular saying the words “who brought this guy, he’s not even trying.”
If the 7PM game is cutting it close because of your work schedule, either don’t agree to be the sub, or give fair warning that you’re going to be late. Otherwise get there 15 minutes in advance.
Think Gary Payton not Kobe Bryant. So you're a great shooter, amazing puck handler or have feet like Ronaldo, well guess what, all of your offensive skills mean nothing if you don’t get back on D. There’s a chance no matter how good you are that you’re offensive game might be off that day, either because it’s been a while since you last played or you’re just not used to playing with that team, but playing good D requires nothing more than a little hustle. No one ever got mad at the sub who played too hard on defense, but you and your friend are almost certain to get dirty looks if you’re the black hole of whatever sports you’re playing. Don't be a hog.
You’re a sub and you’re not paying to be on the team, playing time priority goes to the regulars even if you are or feel you’re better than the regulars. Don't accept playing for 2 minutes, but don't demand more playing time than everyone else.
If you’re the type of player who normally gives advice and likes to tell people what to do and where to be on the court or field, then subbing may not be for you. Even if you’re the best player out there, no one wants to hear it from the sub unless it's an intelligent calmly delivered thought out tactic. You’re also not allowed to get mad at someone who missed a defensive assignment, which means you don’t get to say “who had that guy??!!.”
If you get a bad call, don’t say anything to the refs that might hurt the team, let the captain do that.
We recently read an interesting post on a tennis enthusiast message board that asked the question “how good do you have to be to wear a bandana when you’re playing a match?” Essentially the discussion centered around a club players’ self consciousness over whether their skill level allowed them to wear a bandana while playing tennis. We here at Athletes Collective can attest to this internal struggle and are proud to admit that our level of self consciousness has dissipated over the years with the justification that the accessories we wear when we play sports are in fact practical. We are club level players and we wear bandanas, wristbands and elbow sleeves. Yet we believe the question posted on the message board is more than valid, as adult athletes at the club level constantly struggle with the “am I good enough to try to wear what the pros wear” question. This in essence is what this internal struggle is all about.
In the early to mid 90s the extent to which you could wear or even purchase accessories was limited to a headband, and even that wasn’t prevalent on the court or in the field. Michael Jordan was the most highly accessorized pro athlete, sporting a calf sleeve and wristband on his upper right arm. Andre Agassi sported fluorescent headbands below his now infamous weave. Copying the pros as a kid meant you wore Air Jordans or if you were a tennis player, wearing acid wash jean shorts over fluorescent compression shorts.
Jordan in his signature calf compression sleeve and Andre Agassi in his early 90's Challenge Court Nike gear. Nike had yet to figure out how to put the swoosh on his bandana.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s with Allen Iverson pioneering compression accessories. Around 2005-2006 every NBA player was sporting a headband, and a guy named Rafael Nadal hit the tennis scene sporting a bandana and two wristbands at every match. As the years went by the accessorization of pro sports became more and more prevalent due in large part to sportswear companies realizing there was money to be made by putting their logo on every wrist, head, leg and arm of pro athletes around the world. Now at the high school and pre-high school level, there’s hardly an arm without a sleeve, a head without a band and a leg without ¾ length compression pant. To kids and their friends there’s nothing wrong with that, you look like the pros and you look cool (or at least they think they do).
Allen Iverson brings compression accessories to the NBA, Carmelo Anthony and countless others continue the trend with no less than 4 accessories while Nadal continues to sport matching wristbands and bandanas.
As adults at the club or rec league level however, some of us feel it’s not so cool, and we not only ridicule our friends, teammates and the opposing teams players for sporting said accessories, we internally ridicule ourselves. So how do we rectify this internal struggle? We believe this can be done by assessing the type of accessory you’re sporting, the activity in which your partaking and the amount of accessories you’re choosing to wear at one time.
If you’re going to accessorize at the club/rec league level, here are a few guidelines to alleviate some of that internal conflict.
For some reason we believe that as a kid it’s acceptable to want to dress like the pros (it’s actually considered cute, see photo below for proof), but after a certain age we’re not supposed to want to dress like them anymore.
We must however let go of our insecurities; go out and buy your accessories because for the most part they have a functional purpose. As we age we sweat to a greater degree and are more easily susceptible to injury, so why not do something about it? Forget what your teammates or opponents might think, it's not about being good enough to dress a certain way, it's about being smart enough to wear what helps you when you're playing.
In our last post we discussed our love of the hyper competitive rec league athlete. He’s great; he gets people fired up, he picks up your team when you're down and he organizes everything. He can also tend to be the loudest and sometimes most troublesome one on the field or court. To say he can get a tad emotional during the game is like saying most men get a tad emotional when they watch the closing scene in Rudy when he sacks the quarterback at the end of the game (excuse me I need to get a tissue). If you’re going to be the emotional firecracker on your squad, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about being THAT guy. Here are some guidelines:
As you can see, the guidelines pertain exclusively to fighting and arguing. This is a trait often associated with the most hyper competitive person on the team. Emotions on the court or field often make way for confrontation when things go wrong. It’s OK to care and to feel that it’s more than just a game, but sometimes it’s important to remember it is just a game. No one needs to explain to their boss why their black eye is the result of a punch they took to the face from a second baseman they argued with because they happened to be in your base path when you thought they shouldn’t have been.