Social sports are fun – seriously. Apart from the obvious health benefits (playing one quarter of netball is better than sitting on the couch, right?), you have the perfect excuse to hang out with a bunch of friends for a couple of hours every week. And let us not forget the important post-match debrief, which inevitably ends with you debriefing your weekend rather than the game.
To me, that is the whole point of social sports. I believe they should be (as the name implies) SOCIAL, and fun too! It’s not just because I play D-Grade social netball, either. Sometimes teams take the game a bit too seriously. I’m all for a little friendly competition, but when you’re more concerned about avoiding ‘accidental’ shoves than having a laugh, maybe you’re missing the point.
While competition is an integral part of any sport, there’s competitive and then there’s downright bloodthirsty. If the following tips can just save one person from a broken elbow*, then I’ve done my job.
1.Be friendly to the opposition
Say hi. Comment on the weather. Complain about the game’s lateness (honestly, who wants to play sport at 9pm? Even the umpires want to be in bed). Try smiling at them. Not only does this establish a friendly atmosphere, it also has the added bonus of being a confusion tactic. Plus it makes them feel bad when they shove you, or score.
2. Make sure you debrief after the opposition has left
Regardless of how good-natured you intend the game to be, even the best of us can play a little dirty in the heat of competition. And the ump NEVER seems to pick up the other team! Sometimes the opposition will openly admit this, acknowledging the umpire’s favouritism (probably because of their superior punctuality and organisational skills). Others, however, will blatantly complain within earshot that your team is always in the wrong. But keep it clean and don’t rise to their childish taunts. Save your venting till they’ve left – we want to avoid any broken bones or post-match scuffles.
3. Apologise if you knock someone over
We all make mistakes. For me, it’s most notably in netball, which is technically a ‘non-contact’ sport. If you accidentally trip someone over, elbow them in the eye or concuss their wing attack, APOLOGISE AND HELP THEM TO THEIR FEET. You look like a heartless cretin if you remain stationary, repeatedly professing “but she tripped over my foot.**” Team spirit is what sets us apart from the professional leagues.
4. Don’t take it too seriously
Of course you want to win – that’s the whole point. But have some fun while you’re doing it! Jovially heckle your teammates, have a good-natured laugh when someone throws the ball straight to the other team and cheer loudly when anything goes right.
Don’t nit-pick umpire decisions, it won’t do anything to help your score. It doesn’t matter how much you lose by; you’re not getting paid, there’s no pressure (except for whoever brings the oranges), and your energy is better spent focusing on playing the game as well as you can.
*Yes, this has happened. I was there.
**Your foot, which you deliberately put in front of me!