It was my first T-ball game. As a six-year-old, I wasn’t worried about winning, emailing scouts or getting recruited to college; I was just there to have fun. Sure, it was always exciting to play well, impress your peers and maybe help your team win, but that was never my first priority. I played baseball because it put a smile on my face and turned any bad day into a great day.
As the years passed, baseball only got more competitive. Was this a bad thing? Not necessarily. It’s bound to happen if you strive to play any sport past the age of six. But as the competition grew, winning and helping the team became more important and often dictated the enjoyment behind playing. This was surely different from T-ball, but that didn’t diminish my excitement to go out and practice every minute I could.
But now when I step on the field, only two things matter: winning and college recruitment. It’s natural that specific priorities of players change over time, but no matter my age, I have always wanted my sport to directly lead to joy. Sadly, I can’t say this is true anymore.
So when did it all change? To be honest, I don’t really know. What I do know is that no matter your age, level, or sport, you should always strive to play for your own personal enjoyment.
Senior Lauren Bell has been playing soccer since before she knew how to read. The varsity soccer player always felt that the game has never been about impressing others or winning. However, while playing for Marin FC’s Blue-Team, Bell witnessed her teammates become overly preoccupied with impressing scouts, reaching out to college coaches, or attending showcases. Bell, on the other hand, was solely interested in playing for the joy of the sport and to be with teammates. For this reason, to play with a group of like-minded girls, Bell decided to move down from the Blue-Team to the Red-team.
“If you’re just trying to go to college you are not playing for the team, you’re playing for yourself. That’s just never what it’s been about for me,” Bell said.
This is the problem. While caught up in the politics of college recruitment, athletes tend to forget why they play their sport in the first place. Sure, playing a college sport is a huge achievement every NCAA athlete should be proud of. But should this be at the cost of an athlete’s personal enjoyment?
It shouldn’t. Whether or not you play a sport should always come down to the way you feel every time you play. Playing a sport should be something to look forward to, not to dread. Though this is still achievable at higher levels, it’s often forgotten by athletes who put money, recruitment and other incentives above what should be the most important, their passion.
Rowing tends to take the main stage when referring to athletes who use their sport as an entryway into college. Unlike most sports, rowing is a 10-month commitment that requires participation six days a week.
Junior Marisa Phipps was a member of the Marin Rowing Association for nearly a year and half. In an effort to have fun and get exercise, Phipps decided to take up rowing as a sophomore. Yet after her first year, the initial fun that came with rowing soon vanished as it seemed like more of a burden or a chore than a sport.
“Last year I would be really excited to go to practice, but this year it was just kind of like a thing I had to go to,” Phipps said.
In mid-september, Phipps decided to quit the team because rowing was no longer an activity that she enjoyed or wanted to continue.
Although different motives caused Bell and Phipps to either move down a team or to quit, both should serve as examples for all athletes, not because quitting is admirable, but because both athletes found a way to do what’s best for their own wellbeing.
By no means am I asking you to quit your sport. All I ask is that you answer these two questions: Why do you play your sport? Is this reason being fulfilled every time you come to practice or a game? If so, then you should play until the day your love fades. If not, it’s time to find a way to bring yourself back to those t-ball days.