Winning and Addictions

A couple weeks ago, I had dinner at a pizza place in Las Cañitas with some close friends, one of the being an ex-professional basketball player from Pilar. Of course, we ended up talking about ball and his history. He told me he had played at a fairly high level several years ago and described his experience with basketball:

“I trained hard and was really pushed by my trainers. I grew to be so competitive that it began to take over my life. At one point, I stopped playing but now it is very difficult for me to play at a recreational level, just for fun. I have to win.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this kind of intense competitiveness for the win. On my women’s team, I’ve seen feet stomping, faces turning red, and foul words, all after loses. I remember during one of our early season practises, Cate looked at me while thumbing at Roxana: “Watch out…she HATES losing.”

On the outdoor courts with men, I’ve seen players lose run after run, but who continue to play just because they are thirsty for the win. Some don’t even care how, or with who, they just want to win.

And this ‘addiction’ can easily go from a positive motivation to a negative one. My ex-basketball player friend is the perfect example: the way he described how he became so obsessed with winning, I believe it ruined his ability to feel creative and light on the court. I also noticed a sadness in his face when he talked about his relationship with basketball…as if his drilled competitiveness had ruined the pleasure he felt while playing.

Be it good or bad, winning isn’t always the focal point for me in the game. I appreciate and focus more on team work, assists, and spontaneously inspired runs. If my team wins, of course it is a good sign, but if we lose, it doesn’t necessarily mean we failed. There have been many lost games I’ve played where a lot was learned and achieved. I am aware that my point of view might be a bit idealistic for some people, but I genuinely believe that if you pay attention, you probably learn more from lost games than from the wins.

On the other hand, being competitive is important for success. This is something I’m learning to bring out on the court by maintaining my focus on only one objective: win. This energy should not be confused with that of obsession. They are two very different things. The first is an absolute concentration, a complete absorption into the moment of the game. Some called it being ‘in the zone’ and I kind of see it as a form of intense meditation.

Listen to how these pro-ball players talk about how they feel while on the court:

“Being in the zone is an out of body experience. It supersedes the physical because the world kind of goes away. You can’t hear anything out there on the floor. You can’t hear the crowd. You don’t see a hand in your face. It kind of feels surreal.”

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