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Huddle around friends and let’s talk team building — literal team building. This is an important skill to master should you continue your pursuit of youthful athletic dreams well into your 30s. Yes, you can run, bike, swim, golf or take up any number of mostly individual physical activities to stay healthy, but really, exercise of all kinds is so much more fun — and let’s face it, doable — when done with others. (Channel Eastbound and Down’s Kenny Powers here: “I play real sports. Not try to be the best at exercising!”)
If you are willing to take on a Kenny-ism as your modus operandi then you are ready to explore team sports such as basketball, kickball, soccer or baseball. And this exploration, of course, leads to team building.
It’s crucial to pull together a good group of players in order to get the most out of your experience on the field. This is harder than it sounds. After years spent helping organize semi-pro leagues and rallying friends to get out of bed simply for the love of the game, there are a few critical components to forming a solid squad that have been gleaned along the way. So listen up.
You Need Not Only Good Players But Good People
Yes, you want to win but winning is no fun when surrounded by a bunch of jerks. Make sure you enjoy your teammates’ company and try to ensure that they will mesh well with the other members of your squad. Pulling together a team from an already existing circle of friends can be ideal but not always realistic.
You Need Teammates Who Want to Play (AKA, Teammates Who Will Show Up)
Many acquaintances you approach about playing on your fledgling team will express interest and, perhaps out of devotion to you as a friend, even agree to join up in your quest for kickball excellence. But when game time rolls around, suddenly they are nowhere to be found. You must quickly be able to decipher who is in it to win it and who has ulterior motives.
You Need More Players Than Required
You will need more players than can actually be on the field at one time. So, for instance, if you’re forming a baseball team, which requires nine players, you should aim for a roster of 15. Rest assured that come game time you will experience plenty of the above-mentioned no-shows. Plan accordingly. Plus, half the fun of playing team sports is shooting the breeze on the bench so don’t feel bad if not everyone gets optimal playing time. After-game beers will soothe many a bruised ego. Remember that!
You Will Most Likely Have to Pull Players From Outside Your Immediate Circle of Friends
This is where team building gets tricky and often requires you to abandon socially accepted norms. For instance, if you are trying to build a baseball team for, let’s say, the Bay Area Men’s Senior Baseball League or the New York City Metro Baseball League, you will need to have at the very least twelve males above the age of 18 who can (and are willing to) still swing a bat at a ball thrown at high velocity in their general vicinity.
Unless you played college baseball or were in the minor leagues and all of your ex-teammates still live in the same town, you are going to have some uncomfortable conversations as you build your team. While everyone at a party might be discussing careers, homes, family, you will have to steel yourself for the awkward ice-breaker of “It looks like you used to play baseball.” Yes, you will get a few strange looks. Yes, whispers of “Who’s that creepy guy?” might very well float through the room. However, more often then not, once you’ve gotten past the weird stares and the guffaws you will find that most people are excited about the opportunity to rekindle their competitive spirit. You will also find that one baseball player often leads to another baseball player and another and so on. This is good.
And while this step might be the trickiest, this is also perhaps the best part of stepping into the realm of adult team sports. You will quickly find yourself on a beautiful, level playing field — one increasingly difficult to come across as you get older. All socio-economic boundaries vanish. There is little to no talk about what you do for a living. No one cares where you live or how much money you make. No one even really cares how good of a player you are. On the fields of your youth, you are stripped of the facades built up during adulthood and all that matters is how good of a teammate you are and how much effort you give.
When all is said and done you will find — should you follow the above guidelines — that team sports of the semi-competitive nature can be some of the most rewarding experiences you can have. There is something ridiculously liberating about having strict rules and regulations imposed on your activity for a few hours a week. This is a welcome relief in the confused professional world often built on the nebulous ground of relationship dynamics. Just do your best, contribute to the greater good and you are on the team for life. Now let’s play ball!