Everyone’s personality is different, and you may genuinely be a warm, caring, fun-loving person. This trait will serve you well in casual pickup games and with others who enjoy playing your sport mainly for fun. Getting along with others and resolving conflict by building consensus is important. Your enjoyment of sports will grow through the satisfaction gained from being part of a community that shares similar values.
Some players are more competitiveUnderstand, however, that many of your teammates and opponents are different than you and will take advantage of opportunities that provide them with a competitive edge. They may innately be more competitive, or win-oriented. Their values and reasons for playing the game may vary from yours. Their approach isn't necessarily good or bad, but is different, and you must account for it.
Also, as the competition level increases, you must expect others to have a more competitive attitude. It’s not uncommon at higher levels for the best players to play with an “edge.” With otherwise pleasant personalities, they give no quarter when competing. They don’t back down. The great players hate to lose—period.
Adjust your playIf you tend to be too nice and always give in to others, seek the middle ground. Assert yourself more often. Stand your ground. Especially in competitive settings, play with a more selfish attitude. By doing so, you will not only maximize your personal rewards but also gain the respect of your teammates and competitors.
In team practices or “friendly” pickup games, try to quickly assess your opponents to determine their personality type and how they’re going to play the game. If they’re extremely competitive, they may slightly bend the rules or make questionable calls to gain an advantage. Don’t accept this abuse. Instead, match their competitiveness and “name their sins” as they occur. By aggressively challenging these individuals, they will often back down and you will transform your game into one of pure competition.
Sometimes, the most satisfying, intense moments in sport come when you play with an aggressive edge—it brings out the best in both you and your competitor.
You can still be nice, but understand that it’s all right for you to compete.
Copyright © 2014 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved