I love sports. Well, I mostly love playing sports. Lately I’ve been playing floor hockey. It’s a fairly easy game to pick up for the dabbler. There is minimal equipment to worry about and no blades or skates to balance on. You just run around an indoor court trying to get a little rubber ball into the net. I love it!
I play with a bunch of other moms. It’s really low-key. We all bring our kids and give them space to run around while we play. Anyone can join in, experienced or not. Some ladies have been coming for years, some started a few months ago. We proudly display huge welts and bruises from getting whacked with sticks or hit by the ball. But we always have fun.
And we never keep score.
I used to be a competitive person. Used to. I have this older sister who is awesome at every sport – especially the sport of trash talk. She trash talks before, during, and after she’s won. I learned that if I ever wanted to enjoy playing anything with her (from Go Fish to football), I’d better learn how to enjoy losing. And since learning that lesson, I have enjoy any game I play, win or lose.
So last week as I was playing with my floor hockey moms, I was on a team opposite a friend who is really good. As she stood guarding me, she gave me a side-ways glance and mentioned that she can be a little competitive, so she hoped I wouldn’t get offended. Other moms have been a little frustrated by her level of competition.
Me? Offended? Please. I assured her she had nothing to worry about.
But as the game wore on and she managed to repeatedly steal the ball and block my shots, I started to get a little frustrated. I worked harder, tried a little more, but each time she was still right there to block or steal. Always faster, always better.
I started to get angry.
I tried running faster. I even attempted a few cool moves, which only tripped me up more and gave her another opening to steal. I found myself starting to really lose it as I felt my anger rise.
Breathing hard during a water break, I decided to ask myself, “Why am I getting so angry?” We weren’t keeping score, I was playing with friends, and the point was to have fun. My life wasn’t depending on getting a goal. My children wouldn’t have a better future if I put one in. What was the big deal?
From parenting to politics, we are constantly bombarded with a sense of winning and losing. Breastfed babies are winners, bottle fed babies are losers. Homeschooling is for the socially awkward (losers), private schools will likely get you into Harvard (winners). (I don’t believe any of this stuff, just pointing out that there is an undercurrent of competition in a lot of things.)
Politics makes it worse because there are numbers and polls and elections which constantly demonstrate who is doing well and who is falling behind. Information gets skewed on both sides, take turns painting the picture of an evil and heartless opponent. Some teams create movements and start to play faster and better, increasing that sense of winning and losing.
Standing ready for the next round of floor hockey, I reminded myself that this other mom was a friend and that her style of playing was not meant to make me mad. She is a really good player and I could learn from her. We were both there to have fun and get exercise.
It’s even more important in politics to remember that we are all fellow players with good intentions. Some of you may feel skeptical and weary about that statement, but it’s true. And the sooner we can see each other as all part of the same team, the sooner we can learn from each other and start making changes that will be a win for everyone.