Monday, July 18, 2011

Lessons Learned from Softball and Losing

Tonight concluded the regular season of my first year on a church league softball team.

In all our glory, we went out with a record of five wins and five losses, on the heals of a 20 to 8 drubbing by the team that beat us last week.

However, I am ok with this fact. And the fact that I am is something I feel the need to share.

For many people who don't know me, I will tell you that I am - more often than not - an incredibly competitive person. I'm not quite sure when it started, but whenever I would do something, I wanted it done well and I wanted it to be the best. When I would compete, I wanted to win and when I didn't, I felt like there was something wrong with me.

Believe me when I tell you, this has created a great deal of problems for me throughout my life. Broken everything-you-can-think-of (gaming controllers, walls, nearly knuckles). People mad at me. Lost opportunities for growing relationships. All of these things can be found in the record books of the competitive world of Jon.

One of my best examples would have to be bowling. I am by no means any kind of bowler. Whenever I would go to the bowling alley - whether with friends or family - I would feel some need to be awesome at bowling to the point that I would get incredibly angry when I didn't do well. And it showed. I had a terrible attitude more often than not and ended up alienating people I would play with. For a long time, whenever someone mentioned the thought of bowling, it made me nervous because I knew that I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself.

Over the course of the last few years, however, I've learned to manage the self-applied standards to be very low for myself when doing things like bowling or playing with friends. I felt like I had made pretty good progress and that was something I felt good about.

So imagine how excited I was when the opportunity came to sign up for a softball league through my local church. I figured it would be a good way to get to know the people in my church, get a little exercise and have something to look forward to at the beginning of each week. But that wasn't the only thing I was feeling. There was also quite a bit of nerve.

I was nervous that my temper would flare at an inopportune moment while trying to swing for the fences. Or that I would let my frustration affect not only my mood, but the mood of the people around me and leave a poor impression of who I am as a person (I am typically unapologetic as a person, but not being able to handle losing is no excuse for poor behavior).

So, I went into the season with the goal of trying to have as much fun as possible. And I think I was able to achieve that and learn a little bit in the process.

Losing sucks. I don't like to lose. But I also don't like not having fun, so if I have to choose one over the other, I'm going to take having fun over winning the match.

When applied to tonight's softball game, during which the opposing team scored 15 runs in the first inning (yeah, it stung), it was a matter of trying to keep the mood light and enjoy being with the people I was in the dugout or on the field with. It meant turning up the banter and trying to get a smile out of people even as we were getting our butts handed to us. It even meant sacrificing personal pride for the sake of a laugh at my own expense (because hey, if people think you're a goof, won't it make them feel a little less awkward about being goofy too?).

So that's what I did. I made jokes, I cheered on a losing effort with a smile, I bantered with a little bit, I even teased my friends with shirt removal if they could get a double (it was scary enough, he scored a triple instead!). And it was awesome! We lost and it was awesome.

I know some of my teammates were upset that we lost and that's ok. It's normal to feel disappointed in a loss. I know I would have preferred to win, but I can't change the outcome now. I simply hope that if you were there with me tonight that you know how much I enjoyed being there with you guys and that over the course of this season and your putting up with my goofy jokes and bantering, you've helped me enjoy competition in a way that I haven't enjoyed it for a long time.

Anyway, I suppose part of the point I'm trying to make is, as much as losing sucks, leaving after the game feeling like you wasted your time is worse. Enjoy every moment you get with the people you enjoy being around - especially in a team setting. You don't lose or win as individuals - you lose as a team. That said, you might as well enjoy being with your teammates even if you lose. And if you can't do that in church league softball, where can you?

Thanks for a fun season, folks. Wins AND losses alike.

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