I love competition. Whether it is commercial fishing for sockeye salmon just east of the Bering Sea in Alaska, facing down a 95 mile per hour fastball in a batter’s box or going for the ‘A’ in an evening class that no one gets ‘A’s’ in. I love the tension of a contest. Even though the competition may be taking place in 30 foot Alaskan seas, on a hardwood basketball court or behind a presentation podium, I am always intrigued by the mental, intellectual and physical stresses which accompany healthy competition.
Over the years, I have played in and organized hundreds of competitions. In some cases I have arranged individual duels such as tennis, table tennis and racquetball matches. In other settings, I have helped to pit team against team similar to those observed in the intramural basketball championships held in the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum a while back. Regardless of the format of these oftentimes epic battles, there is something in particular that I enjoy which encircles the arena of competition.
I enjoy seeing the cast of friends, mentors and fellow competitors who show up and root from the sidelines. Whether it is an important presentation, a special event or sports contest, you can tell those who are truly in the participants’ corner. In these very competitive situations, these backers prove their care by what is thought about in their hearts. Competition doesn’t just build character for those in the game, it reveals the character of those watching as well.
The story goes of a father and a son who had played many rounds of golf against each other over the years. However, on this one day in particular, the results of the match had the potential of being something very different. Up to this point in these golf duels, the outcome had always been the same. The dad had never lost to his son. Match after match, month after month, the son had never taken the title away from his dad. He had played to a tie several months back, but he had never beaten his dad. However, on this one particular day all of this could change. On the 18th hole, the father and his son were dead even. A made putt by the son and a miss by the dad would result in the first ever win for the son.
The son was the farthest out. He had a very difficult 16-foot putt. After measuring the lay of the green and finding just the right angle, the son pulled back the putter and with just the right amount of force, the son putted the ball. The ball followed the son’s line perfectly falling directly into the middle of the cup. The son jumped into the air in celebration. It was now the father’s turn. He was just inside the son laying about 15 feet away from the cup. Crouching behind the ball and then standing over the ball, the dad began his final preparation before striking his challenging putt. In complete quiet, the dad drew back his putter and struck the golf ball. The ball started straight but then rolled slightly off line. However, at just the last second, the golf ball veered back into line and found its goal dropping innocently into the cup. The dad had sunk the putt beating his son once again.
After shaking hands, the dad pulled the son close and put his arm around his shoulder. He then leaned in tight and asked his son a question. The dad said, “Son, when your dad was lining up that putt and getting ready to hit it, were you pulling for your dad?” With a smile on his face and care in his eyes, the son looked up to his dad and said, “Dad, I always pull for you.”
Friends, on the field of competition, when colleagues are in the heat of the battle, please remember the role that you can play in many people’s lives. Remember that for some they are feeling the stress of competition, feeling that they have to always make the putt and be successful. Others may be feeling isolated, thinking that all they are getting from life each day are just the negatives. You can play a very important role in this game of life. You can make a difference whether in the game itself or on the sideline watching from afar. What better words can be spoken on the way back to the car, the house or the office then when a friend or a colleague says, “I always pull for you.”
As we strive for excellence, as we strive to give it all we’ve got and as we strive to make a dent in the recreational universe entrusted to our care, look around and ask yourself this question, “Who am I pulling for? Is it only myself or is it countless others within my sphere of influence?” I will be eagerly looking forward to hearing how you are being the one who is speaking those words of affirmation into the lives of those who need it most. You are up. It’s your putt.
Max Floyd has been the Director of Campus Recreation at Wake Forest University for over 22 years. In addition to what he does at Wake Forest, he is a motivational speaker, a youth sports coach, an all levels certified teacher, founder of the All Sports Camp at Wake Forest, a Certified Recreational Sports Specialist and a five time site manager for the NCAA Men’s Division I baseball championship.