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It's just a game it's more serious than that: In praise of the competitive rec league athlete

During my high school years, nothing was more important to me than the basketball team (I exclude girls because I didn’t acquire the confidence to speak to them until I was 18).  I relished 6:00AM practices twice a week, weekend tournaments, and suicides to get myself into shape. When I was in high school the team mattered, people showed up, people cared, teammates would get in each others faces if they didn’t try their hardest in practice. We had supporters (albeit very few) who came and rooted for us game after game. It was competitive and I loved it. Then all of a sudden it was over, I went to college and moved on to rec league intramural athletics and a gradual downward spiral of not caring.

My first few years out of high school playing intramural basketball and softball still mattered. I was still uber competitive and gave 100% at every game. I got excited to play 3 long softball games a week in 30 degree weather, and nights in a dingy gym during the winter basketball season.  As the years went by however, I started to care less and less and the idea of god forbid a 9:00PM Softball game once a week gave me nightmares. Sure I wanted to win, but I wasn’t getting on my teammates' cases for not giving it their all…I became apathetic and started to tell the one guy on the team who was a little too competitive to give it a rest, because “it’s just a game bro.”  I started to look at the early 20 something teams, see their enthusiasm and start to poke fun at how seriously they took every game. In reality I was kidding myself, I was just jealous. I envied their energy and their wild bench who cheered for any decent play. I wished I cared about caring for my team.

As we get older, it’s easy to start noticing that there are fewer and fewer hyper competitive teammates on your rec league team. Most are made up of the following: The best player, the fast guy, the can do one thing really good but can’t do anything aside from that one thing guy, the old guy, the guy who never seems to want to be there, and the hyper competitive takes the league too seriously guy. Aside from the best player on the team, the hyper competitive takes the intramural league a little too seriously guy is the most important person on the team, and now I envy him. Here’s why he’s great:

  1. He organizes EVERYTHING: He brings all the equipment to the games, he gets you your team shirt, and deals with all of the administrative BS no one else wants to deal with. And what does he get in return? Complaints from teammates about the schedule, equipment and generally how the team is run. He’s not getting paid for any of that, it’s a thankless job so don’t give him crap, just say thank you and show up for the game.
  2. He gives your team the boost it needs when you’re down: When half the team doesn’t care, he gets you to care when it matter most.
  3. He has that high school spirit we all seem to lose at some point:   The games actually matter to him and he wants to make damn sure he gets the most for his team fees. This makes playing on the team inherently more enjoyable because his spirit generally rubs off on the rest of the team. It’s way more fun to care than to not care. I’ve done both and the former makes for a much better season.

I just had my tennis team tryout for my club's doubles team, at the tryouts I did my best but didn’t really want to be there. Some of my friends however were chatting about the team for days afterwards when I could seemingly care less. I realize though that their attitude is right and mine is dead wrong. Why join a team if it’s just something to do.  You don’t have to be the loudest one out there, you don’t have to get everyone fired up, but it’s in your best interest to care. Caring makes the game more fun, makes you a better teammate and makes you feel like you got your money’s worth. So get out there and cheer, get out there and practice, give high fives and send emails with game recaps (people love those I promise). Rec leagues aren’t high school, no one is really cheering for you but yourselves. Just because you never made it to that next level doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams of holding that championship trophy. Trophies are just as awesome as an adult because it’ll make you feel like a kid again, just like back in high school when you cared.  Thanks competitive rec league guy, you're awesome.




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