When I was in college, I saw intramural sports as an opportunity for varsity athletes to show off their athleticism while being social. It was the best of all of my worlds: meeting new friends, feeling relatively fit, and getting to drink beer.
Turns out, the friend making, feeling fit, and drinking of beer over a pickup game doesn’t end in college. Tonight, I get to partake in the weekly social and athletic event that is my adult coed soccer league. For me, coed is the humpday treat that energizes me through Monday and Tuesday. And, because of coed, Mon/Tues are pretty much the only full days of the week. With the fun, comradrie, and afterparty that ensues weekly, Wednesdays have come to feel like the first day of my weekend.
And, those fuzzy feelings aren’t just in my league.
Chatting with my pals in other mountain towns, I recognize some consistencies between ours and other adult leagues, regardless of sport or locality. Whether you’re playing soccer, softball, football, hockey or some obscure sport (there has to be a quidditch league somewhere) you’re bound to run into a few specific personalities. Here are a few:
One of the best things about most local leagues is that anyone can join, regardless of experience, fitness and/or coordination. The novice team member is there to have a good time, get some exercise, and learn a new skill. He or she may not have the equipment or the practice, but, damn, does the novice have spunk. They go for it, fall a lot, always get back up, and celebrate the little things and each other. I am way too self conscious to admit that I was ever not good at something (I practice things alone way too often, another blog for another time) so of all the people in the league, I admire the novice the most.
There’s often a distinction made between “book smart” and “street smart.” Within our sporting culture there is a subset of people who are incredibly book smart about their discipline. They know every rule of the game, every technicality, the names of all of the referees and the captains of all of the other teams. They follow professional leagues religiously, and have applied the same passion to our little home league. At any given moment, they can tell you how your team is performing in comparison to others, and how this year compares to seasons’ past. The academic isn’t always the guy scoring the goals, but he sure can tell you who has.
In a stark contrast to our novice, every team must have at least two or three experts. These guys and gals likely played your sport at D1 school, maybe played professionally, or otherwise can pretty much pone anyone on the field. The best experts are those that choose not to, though. Because, after the first 5 minutes of a game, it’s clear who the expert is, they don’t need to prove themselves much further. While some tend to chase glory, hog balls, and overshoot, most opt to pass to the novices, to help lead team strategy, and take themselves off the field to give others the chance to play. Magnanimous experts are the golden example of sportsmanship, and we find a lot of those in our little leagues.
A fusion of the academic and the expert, the masters get their own category in local leagues. These are your super fit, super capable, super experienced people over 50, and you don’t want to mess with them. Often the most competitive people in the league, these are the guys you let argue with the umpire, the ones who have been in the league for decades, and the ones you silently respect and let play as long as they want. If there were a coaching figure, it’s the master, and nothing feels better than when they tell you that you made a good play.
Remember that beautiful phase in childhood when your parents signed you up for six different sports so you could find out which one you liked best? Some people never chose. The multitasker’s weekdays are filled with extracurricular sports. He or she is enrolled on several different teams, shifting from track coaching, to softball league, to group rides sometimes all in the same day. They never seem to get tired, and, even when they show up to your soccer game late, pulling off their volleyball pads, always have a smile on their faces. A+ for enthusiasm, multitasker.
Always has beer. Always brings jello shots. Never forgets the orange slices or watermelon. Snackmaster, I salute you.
The Supportive SO
There’s a handful of inspirational sports quotes about the team behind the team, the people on the sideline, the support that leads to glory. In lieu of coaches, PTs, and massive fan bases, local leagues boast the sideline support of friends, crushes, children, and, most importantly, the supportive significant other. The most supportive of significant others attends every league game, takes pictures, cheers, and goes to each after party. He or she becomes a member of the team, without ever stepping onto the field, while tripling our feeling of importance.
Which one am I? Probably the expert multitasker who aspires to be the snackmaster while also supporting my significant other. Maybe someday I can be a master.
Did I miss anyone? Who are you?
No matter which one of these people you are, at the end of the day, we’re all gathered to play. When we’ve insulated ourselves into our friend and work groups, they show us how big our communities can be.