These are the lessons I’ve learned from competing in various sports throughout my childhood. The lessons were learned from both the game and from the coaches. These were everyday people volunteering their time to teach a game to a bunch of kids. I don’t ever recall any eloquent Coach Taylor-esque speeches, just basic fundamentals to follow. This isn’t The Art of War for intramural sports, but even after all of these years it still holds up.
1.) Never underestimate your opponent and never play down to an opponent’s level.
In real competition, when facing an opponent that is not at your level of play, never lower yourself to play down to their level. Getting complacent and expecting a win without putting forth the effort is how upsets are made.
2.) Once you have the lead, do not let up.
Never let the other team back into the game. Never give them an opportunity to change the tempo of the game, or swing the momentum into their favor. Again, this is how upsets are made.
3.) There will be bad calls.
People make mistakes. Don’t let it get to you. Don’t get emotional. What’s done is done. Just keep playing your game and play smart.
4.) You can’t teach ‘touch’.
Touch is knowing how hard to shoot a jump shot from various ranges in basketball, the precise placement of a wrist shot in hockey, or a volleyball setter placing the set perfectly every time no matter where the pass goes. This is something that can’t be taught. It’s just something you feel. Something you sense. It’s finesse (sometimes you need a little finesse, sometimes you need a lot).
A coach can teach a player where to place their hands on a ball for a jump shot, but they can’t teach them exactly how much wrist snap they need upon releasing the ball. They can say, “Snap your wrist harder.” But how much is enough? Knowing that is something almost mystical. It’s an odd connection between the person and the ball that is unique to each individual player. That knowledge only comes from knowing yourself, and of course practice. Lots and lots of practice.
5.) Not everyone gets a trophy.
I grew up in a time before this current age of entitlement, where only the top two or three teams in the league got trophies or medals. I have to say, I don’t like the fact that every kid these days gets a trophy or medal just for showing up. It creates a false sense of accomplishment, and an expectation of reward even though they don’t deserve it. In life, trophies aren’t given out just because you showed up. Trophies are earned.
6.) “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~ Wayne Gretzky
True on all levels. No risk, no reward. You won’t make every shot, but making zero attempt guarantees failure. Take the shot.