Fun but Not Trivial

From golfers to fighters it has been said to me, that they need to have fun whether it be at practice or when they step into the competitive arena.  This is all well and good, but when one considers that training and competing are their “job” and often times prior to practice “time to get to work” can be heard, fun would appear an afterthought.  Furthermore, many a coach has preached about the necessity of discipline and seriousness.  Again, fun appears to be in the review mirror.  Nonetheless many a platitude about the importance of fun in the sporting process has been spoken.

Certainly fun is important to high performance on the athletic field… no, it is necessary.  It leads to enthusiastic efforts, unwavering persistence, spectacular creativity, and prevents staleness.  But what is this “fun” so many preach about (and at times coaches fear)?

Careless giggles?  Hippie-like twirling freedom?  Cheap laughs and juvenile humor?  An awe shucks, no big deal approach to errors?  A quest for immediate gratification regardless of the competitive cost?  Unlikely…

Perhaps high performing fun is best defined as full engagement (also part of a great title from a good book by Jim Loehr).  Everything listed above may be part of sport when it’s fun (however it is unlikely that all will lead to good performance), however the root of true, deep down, competitive fun that your soul yearns for and heart palpitates at appears when one is engaged in each action at each moment in time.

  • Winning is great, but the potential of this serve is greater.
  • Going low on this links is great, but solving the twists, turns, slants, and slopes of this put is greater.
  • Hoisting the championship belt is great, but striking with precise power, rolling with great aptitude, and combining both with seamless fluidly is greater.
  • Breaking a personal best in a 5K is great, but committing to a wise race plan while not relenting to the screeches and screams of the body is greater.
  • To complete an ungodly number of hours of practice each week may be great, but to be fully engaged throughout is greater.

There is always another opponent, race to be run, score to be carded, but the possibility of each moment is fleeting.  Some of these moments may be hard and grueling, so “hee hee hah hah” is ridiculous.  Many of these moments may leave the body aching, so dumb-ass smiles are simply dumb.  Lots of these moments will tax one’s mind and will, so a lazy tropical vacation attitude is nonsense.  In these realities reveal that sports and striving is fun, but not trivial.

It is this lack of trivial-ness that leads the fully engaged athlete back to the playing field and practice gyms like an unrepentant junkie.  There’s little boredom in practice, because each drill has a purpose, a challenge.  Even long competitive seasons are wonderful, because each contest is an opportunity to test one’s self, learn, and find a little greatness every now and then.

Engagement is tough however.  The tasks asked of an athlete seem relatively unchanging (practice makes perfect… uuggghhh) and in reality there only seem to be a few “big games” each season.  Considering this, the great athlete chooses to engage in the seemingly most benign tasks.  Going through the motions insidiously draws passion, performance, and persistence from the athlete.  Being curious about one’s self and each task leads to enthusiastic practices more often than not.  Finding competition in each the task and with one’s self is a lot of fun.  These things are definitely tougher than having frivolous fun or simply no fun at all.

In the grand scheme of things sport is not a matter of life and death.  Nor is it a referendum on our goodness as human beings.  Sport is play.  This being said however, sport is not trivial.  Sport is an endeavor that is pursued passionately and invested in heavily.  This being said, is seriousness only lies in the level of caring behind it.   Any time that the ball is in play or a sweat is being broken, engaged fun is necessary.  Choose engagement – for the mind, for the body, for the soul.

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