Passion, obsession, feigned ambivalence

My friend messaged me this philosophy she was reading about. She said, “the key to succeeding is to want something, but not so much that you obsess over it”

This ideas has been haunting me all week. At Sunday practice I was doing an endurance drill with a teammate. She was killing it and I told her so.

“It’s because they’re all pacing themselves,” she said.

“Why would they pace themselves? It’s a 2-minute drill.” I asked.

“Everyone does,” she said.

“I don’t,” I said. “I just do the best I can and usually by the time I’m tired, so is everyone else.”

These two ideas have been battling in my mind. So when that friend messaged me with her idea, I disagreed with her. “If you want something, I don’t think you should feign ambivalence. I think you should hunt your goal, not be coy. And if you’re disappointed, you’re disappointed, but at least you gave it everything. Way better than pretending you don’t care, being disappointed, then wondering if you could have done better,” I said. But, I buffered, “that’s me and I’m cray.”

As home team draft approaches, I am seeing a lot of my friend’s philosophy. Some of my teammates say things like, “I probably won’t get drafted and I don’t want to be disappointed, so I’m just trying not to care.”

It saddens me. These are hard-working women who love the sport. Isn’t this the time to go balls out? I think it’s time to show how much you want it and how much derby means to you and how hard you will try.

But, then there is my reasonable friend who said, it’s just about not unhealthily obsessing.

True. So how do we find a balance where your heart isn’t in a grinder if you don’t achieve your goal, but also giving your goal everything you can?

As another former teammate of mine said, a healthy level of participation in derby is 7.

She meant out of 10.

For me, that means eating well, going to my practices and giving it everything I have in that time that I have and then crosstraining. It also means I have to go to movies, spend time with my loved ones and go to work.

It’s a hard balance in derby land and I wonder: Is it ever OK to be a 10? What about in the final jam, overtime in a tied game? During home team drafts? Travel team tryouts? Endurance practice? When should you be a 10? (Answers and input welcome in the comments)

2 thoughts on “Passion, obsession, feigned ambivalence

  1. Without knowing the purpose of the drill, it’s difficult to say whether ‘pacing’ should be employed. If this was a tryout or evaluation, that might depend on whether there were upcoming events the player feels are more highly valued that they wish to remain fresh for. There are also running drills built around using specific pacing strategies for various race events, etc so it’s a bit of a grey area.
    One of the main concepts I’ve gotten from lots of reading about physical preparation is that people are very individual in how they respond stimuli, both psychologically and physiologically. A stressor (tryouts) that causes one person to have a mild panic attack (elevated HR, shallow breathing, etc) may leave another person yawning or even happily excited. Some people are just ‘high-responders’ to stress. Also, how an upcoming event is anticipated by the person affects what occurs physiologically. Sapolsky’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers does a very good job explaining this. The point of all of this is that the way in which certain people view the draft may be a sort of psychological ‘coping strategy’ they’ve developed to deal with an enhanced stress response. You see this in many sports, some athletes (Ray Lewis, for example) need to get amped up to perform best, others use headphones to drown outside stimuli and stay relaxed as long as possible. Obviously there’s a whole spectrum of reasons why that approach could be taken by a person, this is just one of them.
    I do think it’s important to distinguish between the importance of participation in the context of your whole life vs any particular practice. Just because you participate at a level 10 every practice doesn’t mean practice dictates what you do outside of that venue. I think it’s actually more important for amateur athletes than professionals to establish long-term goals from the outset, because this partially determines what sacrifices you will need to make. If your goal is to go as far as just practicing will take you, then you just need to make practice most of the time. If your goal is to be the best you can be competitively, then most likely you’ll need additional training at some point and will need to sacrifice based on that. As always, it seems the only truly correct answer is ‘it depends’.
    On a personal level, I would say if you aren’t going to push to 10 at some point in competition, then why are you playing a competitive sport? IMO the most valuable piece of competitive sport against others is that it offers you the opportunity to find out where your level 10 really is, in a way I don’t get competing against myself.

  2. Heh, I had a conversation with someone recently, along a similar line with the ladies you mention who were, “trying not to care,” because they didn’t want to be disappointed. This person and I were talking about a position he was hoping to get, and the fear that, if we want something too much and too openly, then it won’t happen. I think I’m going to show him this post. 🙂

    As far as level 10 goes, I can think of instances during scrimmage or endurance when I dialed it up as far as I could go, when being at level 10 was the ONLY thing that seemed appropriate at the time. And yet, I can’t see a life that would allow me to do all of derby at a 10, all the time, and still remain happy and balanced. I’m thinking that level 10 is something for short bursts and defining moments, but it isn’t exactly sustainable in the long-term.

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