“Win as if you were used to it. Lose as if you enjoy it for a change.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Much has been written over the years of the importance of organized sports for children, carried into young adulthood. Those who have grown up on farms will likely grin when they read such things, thinking of the rough and tumble lessons learned in disorganized sports.
Everything from barn ball to pasture puck hockey served as a great foundation toward building a whole lot of strong kids. There was never an adult hovering nearby to sort out the disagreements over the rules or the rough stuff. Much is revealed about the character of individuals in these circumstances.
Negotiating tactics in these arenas start before a kid is even old enough to start school, not yet big enough to measure the height of a yardstick.
The experiences I carried forward from the rough and tumble barn ball mentality helped me maneuver grade school tiffs and junior high jealousy, skills honed as the youngest player in a big group.
I soaked up those backyard negotiations, complete with bullying tactics and the “I’m always right” tendency of the oldest who was known to change the rules of a game midstream. That type of behavior doesn’t stop when childhood ends, and I find myself still dealing with that same player today.
Sports, like life, brings out the worst in some. Others have the wisdom to see a final score, and the chapters of life, as just a game, and walk away carrying happy-hearted memories of the day.
Both types of players are learning very different things, but there is no course within the walls of a school or organized athletics designed to teach it like the wide open spaces of a farm does.
I learned that there is no winning when up against certain adversaries, so approaching situations with a lighthearted bit of glee in the face of bullying can drive some opponents a little crazy.
Does the final tally really matter? Not if a fella has decided it does not matter one single bit. Remain aloof and happy, and it sucks all the wind out of the sails of the most high and mighty player.
To paraphrase the great Ernie Banks, sometimes the only way to prove that you’re a good sport is to lose.
I would be willing to bet most of us rarely carry imprinted memories of the reactions of those who lose gracefully, but those who throw a fit over things that never mattered can change our opinion of that person forever.
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