broadsideblog

Why Playing On A Team Can Save You

In behavior, sports on August 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm
Players at the Homeless World Cup 2007 in Cope...
Image via Wikipedia

I’d never heard of the Homeless World Cup. Now, for the first time, a women’s version will be held.

From The New York Times:

Earlier, during the end-of-tournament celebration, a moment of pride engulfed T K Ajiboye of Far Rockaway, N.Y. Ajiboye served 18 months on a drug charge, he said. After his release, he worked at various jobs and eventually joined the Street Soccer New York team and moved into the HELP Supportive Employment Center of Wards Island.

Ajiboye, now working as a waiter, was named to the 12-man player pool from which the eight-player United States team that competes in the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Brazil in September will be selected.

“Being part of this scene means a whole lot,” he said. “No one person has it worse. If you meet the next person and you hear his problems, you’re ‘Oh my God.’ It makes my foundation even stronger.”

For the first time, a women’s Homeless World Cup will be held. Wrightsman was named to the 10-member pool from which the eight-player United States team will be selected. Later in the day, she added the USA Cup’s most valuable player honors.

“I’m honored, shocked, “ she said of making the national team. “I’ve worked harder to do this than anything in my life.”

I’ve been playing team sports competitively since I moved to New York in 1989. It’s deeply ironic to me that, having moved to New York to carve out a place in journalism — a ferociously crowded field in a relentlessly elbows-out city — my sports pals and coaches, (and all that athletic competing), has proven my balm and refuge.

I didn’t grow up playing team sports seriously, but as an adult find them intensely satisfying. If nothing else, and it’s a lot, I find there a level playing field with bells and lights and whistles, rules and yellow cards and umps and judges. The best win, the weaker lose.

I was a nationally ranked saber fencer in the mid 1990s, then took up sailboat racing and now have been playing co-ed softball for eight years. In every sport, in every venue, it is always my team mates and fellow crew who truly know me best.

However cliche, sports competition within the matrix of a good team with a smart coach, can elicit our deepest, most hidden strengths and, sometimes, tame some of our demons.

I hate losing, and it’s inevitable — at least your team shares defeat with you. In victory, each plays a part. Even until very recently, with a severely compromised left hip, I was still playing second base and hitting to the outfield, albeit with a pinch runner. I love the inter-reliance of my team sports, the high fives and long lunches afterward to debrief, celebrate, commiserate. I am in awe of one team-mate, a man in his 60s who had a multiple organ transplant last year, who runs the bases.

I think this experience of being accepted and valued — and coached and pushed — is essential for every young girl and woman, even if briefly or unsuccessfully. Women, especially, are told their bodies are only valuable when thin, pretty, conventionally shaped and/or producing babies. Athletic achievement offers us a clean and potentially powerful place to (also) appreciate our stamina, strength, flexibility, self-discipline.

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  1. I much prefer one-on-one sports (because I prefer the company of antagonists, I suppose) but the worse things are going, the more you need comrades and this is great news. Thanks for sharing.

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