“Why do the kids play baseball, if they don’t know who wins?”
--Little League dugout mother
When I heard the above statement from this “baseball mom”, a dugout coach for my grandson Dante’s 8-year-old Little League team, I felt dismayed and disappointed.
During the entire game all the coaches acted as teachers, helping this level of aspiring baseball players learn how to catch the ball, swing the bat, and stand in the batter’s box properly. Even when a young boy struck out swinging, the coaches complemented them on their swing. When they forgot to tag an advancing runner, they informed them about their mistake with no degrading comment. All the fans clapped for every batter that hit the ball, even if they did not make it to first base safely. Everything throughout the entire game affirmed the learning that the boys were experiencing.
The boys, however, were concerned more about the score, even though the scoreboard was shut off. The entire game was a competition for them. They needed to win in order to feel good about themselves.
I realized that this was basic training for life; namely, that people don’t feel good about themselves unless they compete with others and “win the game.” It reminded me of a serious cultural problem. Unless we win at whatever—work, relationships, conversation, politics, spiritual growth—we usually don’t feel good about ourselves. Sometimes winning in a relationship means having the last word, or making sure that we are “right.”
In yoga, success or winning of any sort is never the goal. In the hatha yoga class, we are told to not compare ourselves with the other students. We are told to go inside and learn about what is happening to our bodies. It is not seeing how long we can hold a posture to prove to ourselves that we are improving, but to stand in a posture and learn about our level of resolve, or our strength today, or our balance as this moment. Hatha yoga is a learning opportunity. Even a so-called “mistake” in alignment is an opportunity to change and learn the effects of a different way of holding our body in a posture.
I notice that my younger grandchildren, those between the ages of 0 and 5, are constantly making errors of movement, errors of speech, errors of all kinds, and then change their behaviors in order to fulfill an inner drive to do things well. They don’t get angry with themselves when they fall or wobble. They get up and do it a different way or try again. The adults in the room often lovingly show them what they might need to do in order to accomplish this or that skill. Competition is learned much later in the “advancing years.”
I wonder what life would be like if we saw life not as a “game,” not as a win or lose experience. I wonder what life would be like for people saw all their endeavors as opportunities for learning. Would we like ourselves more? Would we see, like the coaches of Dante’s baseball team, that everything, even games, are learning experiences?