Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Secret To Playing Sports

Eureka!  I’ve found it.  After 40+ years on this earth, I’ve discovered the secret to playing sports.  Want to know what it is?  Then read on, my friend.

Before I share the secret, a little bit of background.  I’m not a professional athlete.  Not semi-professional.  Not even a professional coach or trainer.  I’m not a sports writer, cameraman, announcer or even a scout.  I don’t even work the concession stand at a sports arena selling beer and hot dogs.

I’ve never been to Cooperstown nor the Super Bowl.  If I attend a single professional sporting event in a year, it’s probably for some work-related function.  I don’t watch sports on TV other than maybe the Super Bowl and some U.S. Open.  I don’t follow the team or player stats in the paper.

Despite all of that, I’ve played sports on and off my whole life.  Softball, football, soccer, tennis, hiking.  The only leagues sports I’ve played were soccer and bowling and I played soccer for the school team in Junior High and High School.  I’m not great but I can hold my own.  At least, I could back then.  I’ve coached many of my kids’ sports teams over the years.  But that wasn’t because of my extraordinary sports acumen.  It was because I’m pretty good at organizing groups. 

So what makes me qualified to discover the secret of playing sports?  Nothing really.  I’m just a guy who enjoyed it his whole life, and who has watched his kids encounter both the joy and challenges of playing sports.

Now I’ve dilly-dallied long enough.  At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Does this guy have the goods, or not?”


The secret to playing sports: playing.

Before you walk off in a huff, complaining this was a big rip-off, let me explain.

The number of people in this country that make their living playing professional sports is small.  Smaller than small.  It is only the few elite who are born with talent, have the drive and dedication to develop those talents, and the resources for equipment, trainers, etc. to reach that echelon of sports.

The rest of us just play.  Sports are games after all.  They are fun and a good source of exercise.  Playing is good.  We all need a break from the stresses of work and life.  Playing sports is a good way to do that.  Sports teach people how to work as a team, and they instill a competitive spirit.  After all, with the exception of sports you do by yourself, there is usually a winner in most sporting challenges.  And who doesn’t want to win?

What saddens me (and I’ve been guilty of it myself), is when kids pick up a ball and go out to play, and a parent feels the need to criticize, constructively or not, the kids’ technique.  If a kid asks for pointers, by all means help them.  But so many of us are focused on the winning aspect that we don’t let kids just play.  I’ve seen parents scream at their kids from the sidelines, telling them what to do every moment of a game or berating them for messing up a play or giving up a run, a goal or a basket.

Most kids will not grow up to be professional athletes.  They can dream and hope to emulate their sports heroes but as explained earlier, the percentages are small.  So we need to get over this fact and just let our kids play.  Aside from the fact that they’ll gain more self-confidence and may actually enjoy the sport, you’d be surprised at the variations they come up with.  New rules, new plays, new configurations.  When they’re not bound by professional league standards, they can get as creative as they want.

There’s a big difference between training and playing.  It’s always more fun to play.

Thanks for reading.


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