For the longest time, competition and fun were two concepts so radically in opposition to each other that I only recently put them together. In my mind, competitions had always been power moves for individual gain and glory, and fun, while hard to define, was always an activity shared with others. But after I came to college, my idea of competition began to change. Through playing intramural soccer, I realized that competition can be incredibly enjoyable when it is social and when individual stakes are put aside.
Growing up, playing soccer with my dad and brother was the epitome of unadulterated family fun. My brother and I would always play against our dad, and we were terrible--every two minutes we'd have to stop and fish the ball out of some bush. It was clear that any goals we scored our dad had let us score, but it didn't matter. I was always delighted with dad's ridiculous, offbeat moves and the rare instances my brother and I could outsmart him.
After I joined the school team, soccer became a burden. Motivated by the pressure I felt from both my parents and myself, I no longer played soccer to have fun, but for a nice profile to send to colleges. The coach really cared about the team winning, but all I cared about was being better than my teammates. I was completely focused on improving my own skills, but then again, so was everyone else around me. In the rat-race to college, there were clear winners in every pursuit. And there were so many winners at my school that winning with others was an impossible concept, represented only ever sarcastically by the threat of plastic participation trophies. As playing soccer became solely a means to get into college, it became harder and harder to recall the enjoyment of the front-yard games I use to play with my family. There was one point in high school when I was close to tears on the field because I could no longer see the point in playing in games I did not care about, with a team I did not care about, playing a sport I had long lost motivation to improve in. So while my brother and dad were still going to pickup games at the park down the street every weekend, I stopped going with them and quit soccer senior fall because I was "too busy."
I was disappointed in myself for that excuse. I had lost the front-yard fun of soccer to a piece of paper some admissions officer was going to spend 60 seconds reading. But what's past is past...is what I thought.
In college, an opportunity to reclaim the fun in soccer presented itself in the form of midnight soccer, a totally legitimate and intensely competitive variation on intramural soccer where you play in the dark late at night. The first game fall quarter, I went with my housemates, who were all dressed in onesies, to cheer them on on the sidelines. We brought a speaker and danced all the way to the field, though we danced quite poorly, and we continued to dance on the sidelines while our housemates played soccer, also quite poorly. We could barely see what was happening but produced sideline reactions worthy of the Wii Sports tennis audience. And though we lost the game, I felt the urge to play soccer for the first time in 6 years. So I played on the field the next time, and the time after that, and pretty much every week of Fall Quarter. We were a ridiculous bunch, crowding the ball and deserting our positions on the field, giving pre-game pep talks and chanting post-game rituals. But it was fun. It never occurred to me that playing on a soccer team could ever be fun.
It was fun not only because we were ridiculous, but because we were invested in winning as a team and of course, beating everyone else at a totally legitimate and intensely competitive sport. I began to appreciate the years I spent playing soccer on various teams. I surprised myself by actually utilizing the soccer skills I accumulated, giving my housemates tips on positioning and encouraging them to communicate on the field. I once again felt the passion and enjoyment I derived from the sport.
Strangely enough, when competition no longer had high personal stakes, it became more worthwhile. I finally saw value in knowing how to play soccer because I could build friendships in competition. And it didn't stop at soccer. I got involved in intramural bowling, soccer, dodgeball, and flag football. We would lose most games, but we'd always have the better sideline. And while we went into games pumped up and ready to dominate the other team, we still thoroughly enjoyed our own inadequacy when it inevitably occurred. So when I encountered Besst, I realized that I no longer hated competition. I could finally put "competition" and "fun" in the same sentence and understand it.
Besst's app is extremely exciting because it could make anything as lit as our intramural sports culture through low stakes, socially oriented competition. I am excited to see how our intensely competitive intramural team will use it to have more fun, betting on who will score on the other team's goal and who will score on our own. I think Besst will bring the team even closer and create an even more positive competitive culture of laughing, learning, and losing--and of course, truly winning in all senses of the word.