It’s amazing what happens when you can break things down in a simple way.
Over the years, I’ve had my bouts with being too competitive in sports, despite knowing I was usually over-matched.
Years ago, I was a semi-competitive ball golfer. It’s not that I was great by any means. But within the divisions in which I competed, I could do decently well. On my home course, I never shot anything better than eight-over-par, and that only happened a few times. Often enough, I was more in the range of plus-12 to plus-20, on average. Sometimes better, sometimes much worse.
That’s not a rarity.
Up until the past few years, I took sports way too seriously. I over-thought things. And, to be fair, I’m not the greatest athlete. That doesn’t take away the feeling that I should do better than I do.
And, I won’t lie, it’s irritating to watch others do well when I think I should be doing much better.
A few years back, I hit a wall, realizing I took things too seriously. I needed to do something to calm it down a bit. You know, the approach of taking a deep breath and looking at the big picture.
I needed to make things simple.
I’ve been a competitive softball player since graduating high school. I’ve run a team since then and we’ve played in various state and national tournaments. We play what’s referred to as modified pitch — basically a version of fast pitch, without allowing pitchers to throw in windmill or sling shot.
And back in the day, boy were we intense. There were many days I wondered if we’d have a brawl on our hands as things got so nasty. These days, we’re still serious. But I’m proud that our team is one of those silent ones (for the most part). We play the game as hard as we can for two hours. When the game’s over, it’s done.
There’s still intensity on the field, for sure. But for the most part, it ends when the game ends.
It’s call growing up.
But, it’s also because I started looking at the game much differently. I took a simple approach. It was a game of pitching, hitting and fielding. I needed to stop worrying about everything. Errors happen. People don’t always get hits. We don’t always win.
It was refreshing when I came to that point.
Let’s look at ball golf. When I first started playing ball golf, I was all about power. I just wanted to drive the heck out of the ball as far as I could. With that came an awful short game and, on the green, I couldn’t do a thing. I’d throw fits. I’d swear and be a downright ornery cuss.
So, I never got better.
Then came our local county tournament. For those who are good at golf, this is basically our area’s major. With nearly 150 players competing over three days in six divisions, it’s quite a tournament.
I decided to get a friend to caddy for me and walk all three days.
After realizing that you could break this game down in simple terms, I started getting better. We looked at each shot. We walked up and talked about what was going on. If I flubbed a shot, so be it. I had a nice walk to cool off and put it behind me.
Then came the epiphany — I enjoyed the game of golf.
And it wasn’t the competition — it was the aspect of the game. It’s not you against others — it’s you against the course.
From then on out, it was rare for me to take a cart. It was an added cost that I didn’t enjoy. And, each year, the same friend caddied for me when I played in the county tournament.
To me, playing golf when walking is a much better thing for two reasons — the exercise and the ability to allow you think and dissect the shots you have coming up.
When I did play using a cart, I often found I didn’t think about things as much, got much more ticked off and let rounds go to hell quickly.
The game finally became too expensive for me. And, truthfully, it takes too long to play 18 holes.
A few years ago, I discovered disc golf. I won’t lie — at first, that competition came back. After all, it was throwing a freakin’ Frisbee. How hard could this be?
For the first year where I actually played, I got too serious. I played tournaments and started worrying about what other people were doing. I wanted to win, win, win.
I never got better.
The reason? I had caught the serious bug again. I had to step back and look at things. I didn’t throw tantrums or anything like that, but I left tournaments angry.
It was time to break it down again.
This game, for the majority of players, is a game of fun. I’m in that group. Though there are many people out there who play at an extremely high level, I likely never will.
And I’m OK with that. Why? Because I made it simple.
Disc golf is a game where you get out in nature, hike a bit and throw some plastic. You get to hear an amazing sound of rattling chains when you hole out and you move along. There might be a beer involved. Maybe four or five friends. Or maybe it’s a solo round with a quiet walk through the woods.
The game, in the overall scheme, is one of the most simple you’ll play. You throw a disc with the goal of getting it into a set of chains in as few throws as possible.
With 2013 now upon us, I want to keep the game fun. I just want to go out and throw discs. I’m not going to worry about how many discs I can carry or where I place in this tournament or that, I just want to continue to improve by working on things in my own way.
It’s a simple game. I plan on keeping that way.
P.J. Harmer is the founder and executive editor for Rattling Chains. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.