The rules of the game

Dear Miss A,

I wonder how many of these autumn afternoons you will remember in a few years’ time. Will you remember the country music playing in the car as we navigate the streets to get to the surrounding schools for your Wednesday afternoon Netball matches? Will you remember how we always stop to look at the playgrounds and the gardens of these new schools that we get to visit? Will you remember how you chatter with your friends after the match-  your cheeks rosy, your eyes shining, with the wind in your hair and brown stains of mud on your blue top?

Time is a wonderful filter of all things great and small,  and no matter how careful you are with a memory, someday it will slip out of your grasp and disappear into nothingness. I may not have played Netball but I have lost and won a fair few games. So while most things will pass into oblivion, I do want you to remember these rules  – not just for the games but for most contests that you will face in life.

  1. Life is not fair. Neither is the playing field . You have to learn to deal with this. Accept this truth with grace.
  2. There will be people on the field that are more gifted, more agile and luckier than you are. You can almost always catch up with these people if you work hard enough and believe in yourself. Mostly this works. On the days it doesn’t, remember Point 1.
  3. People will pick on you at times – you will be heckled and insensitive things will be said. You can do two things – you can ignore the heckling or you can stand up for yourself and let the offender know you will not stand for this. Each option is as good as the other. In either case, do not let it bother you.
  4. The game is not about the goals you scored or the passes you saved. Don’t run around so fast that you miss a friend who is hurt or a teammate who needs a friendly nod. It will come back to you. It always does.
  5. Play because you love the game. Not because you are scared of losing. And not because somebody told you that you have to win. The game is bigger than victory or failure. And sportsmanship has nothing to do with either.
  6. Encourage your teammates. Cheer when they do something clever. Offer a hug when someone misses a milestone. As you grow up you will realize that being an island is a very sad way to live.  Learn to be a part of the team – we move better when we realize that we are not always alone.
  7. Applaud when you see good sportsmanship and clever play, no matter whose team it is. Do not judge a player by their team.
  8. Somedays you will be a part of the action – the one with the means to make things happen and change the outcome of the game. On other days, you will be on the side bench watching the game progress and reach new heights without you. You still need to be as involved with the game just as much, no matter what your role in the team is. You don’t swap loyalties just because you change roles in the team.
  9. No matter whether you win or lose, walk with the team afterwards. You were all in this together – and you will walk together after all is done and the game has ended. Every victory will be sweeter and every defeat will hurt less when you walk as one team.
  10. Shake hands with the other team after the game. This is not a mere ritual. You need to shake hands with them no matter how they treated you during the game. By shaking hands you are accepting that the game and everything associated with that hour of play has ended – and ended aimcably. You will need that sense of closure. Especially on the days the game didn’t end well.
  11. Sing the team song at the end of the game – sing it loudly and robustly and with emotion. Then pick up your sports gear and tell your team mates you will see them around and walk back in the knowledge that you will be coming back for another day. For another game. Because the game will always be bigger than you.
  12. Remember that it is not always about what happens on the field. The game is also about the people that cheer you from the sidelines and the friends that ask you how you fared the next day. It is about the sea of faces or perhaps that single, solitary wave from the side stands, the team mate that comes running to you with a drink bottle during half time, the family members that lug your sports gear around and the kindly groundkeeper who shows you where to store your stuff or how to access the side stands. All these people work together to create an evening for you – and they are as important as everything you will see on the field. Never forget that.
  13. Friendships will thrive, some will erode. Your clothes will become stained and shorter, your dreams will glimmer and grow bigger. The scores will be erased, new records will be set. You can end up playing the game for a term or a year or perhaps for many years to come. No matter what you choose, the lessons you learn here will last you a lifetime.
  14. Be thankful. For the game. For the team. For the person that coaches you. For the air on your face and the breeze in your hair. A sense of gratitude is the best tool for anything you will ever attempt.
  15. Play like no one is watching. Play for your heart and with your heart. Everything else will fall into place. And if you still don’t win as much, do not let disappointment get to you. Look towards the stands. I will be there waiting – to give you a hug, to drive you home and to cheer for you the next time around.  For as long as you will play, I will be your cheerleader, your best friend and your baggage handler. This is my promise to you for now and for ever. And neither victory nor defeat will change this.




10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Altoid
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 12:58:29

    I LOVED this value-packed rule sheet..something no game coach will ever teach. Thanks for writing this Scarlett 🙂



  2. Rajavel
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 13:10:12

    Oh boy ! Am I going to re read this and re read this or what ! I am going to print it and give it to my son – at the least – for sure. I am going to have one on my desk too.

    Are you mum or grand mom ! 😀 !


  3. scarlettletters
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 13:21:25

    Alty – thanks 🙂 Am so glad you liked it 🙂

    Rajavel – I am so flattered. That sounds awesome – thank you so much.


  4. Captain Nemo
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 16:11:10

    Very nice, loved it. A Reader’s Digest version of ‘Manual of the warrior of light’…


  5. Gauri
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 18:17:16

    This, Scarlett, should be, needs to be, deserves to be archived under “Pearls of Wisdom”.

    Beautiful in its simplicity and in the fact that these words seemed to shine right out of your heart.


  6. bilbo
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 19:18:30

    this one is a keeper scary and as rajavel said, needs to be printed out and kept within sight.


  7. scarlettletters
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 15:15:42

    Thanks Captain, Gauri and Billy 🙂


  8. Priyamvada
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 03:46:27

    Got goosebumps reading this: “The game is bigger than victory or failure. And sportsmanship has nothing to do with either.”

    Sounded like something my father would say. Miss A is lucky to have such a wise and loving mom.


  9. scarlettletters
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 15:33:57

    Priya, thanks 🙂


  10. Aria
    Oct 08, 2010 @ 01:05:38

    So sweet Scarlett.. I guess am gonna save it for my little nieces .. and send it across to em when they learn how to read .. : )


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