Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Softball and the competitive spirit

On Sunday nights our church plays softball in the Rowlett city softball league. It is hoped that in the future we'll pick a league closer to the community we intend to reach as a church - but I digress. When we come together as a church team, we seek to play our best. So far this season, all of the other teams we have played appear more proficient at the game than we are (we've lost every game).

However, this record requires some context. At the beginning of the season it was expected that our team would be placed in the "D" league where it was last season. However, due to the number of teams that occupied that league this season someone had to be bumped up for space considerations. That unfortunate team was Genesis Community Church. I say "unfortunate" because the goal of the church team does not ever appear to have been to seriously compete, but instead to have fun playing against comparably skilled teams. Because we had played at "D" league competency, we expected to play against other "D" level teams. Instead, this season we find ourselves playing against "C" league teams who are far more competitive that what we had been used to.

The resulting effect has been a temptation to become discouraged at the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of each opponent's skills each Sunday night. We say that the goal was never to be intensely competitive, but the scored spread is not ignorable either. What is the proper attitude one should have when seemingly unfairly placed in a situation both beyond your control and beyond your skill level?

It seems that given the above mentioned conditions, the normal standards of measuring progress are no longer valid (i.e. the other team's score compared to yours). Because the conditions have changed, so must the measurement of one's own success. Instead of counting by what number of runs the other team won, it is actually more accurate to measure progress of one's own performance against one's own record given the new conditions. How many more runs the opposing team got is of less concern that how many more runs we got than our last game given a similarly skilled opponent. Do not speak so much of how many more runs the opposing team got tonight. Instead speak of how many more runs we got tonight than we last did when getting them was just as difficult.

I suspect that our improvements over this season, playing in a higher league than we're supposed to, will be too gradual to detect from one game to the next. The end result will most likely be that by the end of the season we will have risen to a level that makes continuation in the "C" league more appropriate than returning to the "D" league. If we do register for the Royce City adult softball league in the Spring, then we still might sign up for the "D" league. I would not be surprised though to discover that opponents at that time complain that we were placed in too low a league, just as we initially complained for being placed in too high a league. The competitive spirit will arise again as our team glories in the victories, forgetting about the whining and pitiful lamentations that accompanied the learning of our new found skills this season in the first place.

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