Saturday, August 1, 2009

Expectations & Having Fun

Disclaimer: This isn’t about everyone who plays tourney ball. It is about everyone who aspires to be everything they can be and desires to stand on the podium.

There has been, for as long as I’ve been around this silly game, a clear dichotomy between serious competitors and those just having fun. And when I say this silly game I mean competitive paintball. The normal short-hand understanding of a team "having fun" is that they don’t expect to win or even really be in the mix and further, aren’t really trying or have so little belief in their own potential that "we’re just having fun" is the pre-excuse explanation for failure to perform. Yes, yes, I know some of you will object and also insist you’re all about having fun but are also completely and totally serious about competing. Maybe yes, maybe no. But I introduced the typical sense of the expression having fun so that I could suggest an alternative. (And it would be really confusing to offer a different definition without first providing the normal definition in the context of competitive paintball. "Normal," of course, being what I say it is.)

Another way of looking at "having fun" is to cast yourself in the role of underdog (Not bird, nor plane or even frog) or in an effort to remove the burden of expectations. For some players, teams and situations this is probably an acceptable, possibly even utilitarian option. How much easier is it to go out and just play knowing nobody expects anything from you? What’s really on the line when you’re just having fun? It stops being an option when other players and teams begin to acknowledge you as real competition. You can delude yourself about competing "for fun" until somebody else expects something from you. Like a level of performance that reflects your supposed ability. So here you are having worked for who knows how long to be part of the conversation and you’re still pretending you’re just about "having fun." At this point there is (there must be) a psychic disconnect for even the most dimwitted and/or least self-aware paintball players. Nobody chasing success can avoid expectations or just play to have fun.

At the same time if you don’t love playing the game and aren’t having fun maybe you should find something else to do. There is a real problem if you aren’t having fun playing but that’s not what this is about. This is about using having fun as an excuse. As a way of denying the reality of competition and as an intentional or unintentional method of refusing to come to grips with the fear of failure or the burdens of expectations.

My favorite way of describing how a successful team works is that it’s like a shark. Always hungry, always moving forward. The loss of either one means it’s beginning to die whether it knows it or not.

Next installment will be "Goals & Challenges." About coming to grips with expectations and learning how to win.

1 comment:

Eric said...

When you get to the national level you have to realize that sometimes practice will not be fun anymore. You will have to work to get the results you want at events, working out, drills, ect. I would suggest teams have a day at the end of the year to play some recball with tippmans or something similar, you will remember why you started playing in the first place.