Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 22, 2010 Column in the Kings County Record

Whalen's Wanderings

Playing to Build Relationships

It was my privilege recently to take a trip to Guatemala.  The trip was an amazing opportunity to broaden my horizons on a number of topics.  One such event that I took part in was what I would call court soccer, but if you do a Google search you won't find it.  The court I played on while in Guatemala was an outdoor basketball court.  In many cases, although not the one I played on, the courts are fenced or boarded in.  While there are likely many rules to the game, I was simply invited to play in a pick-up game, so rules were slack.

Despite being a pick-up game it was still fast paced and competitive, with a few obviously talented players.  I grew up playing soccer and considered my self slightly less than talented back then and I am sure as I've aged modestly since then I am likely no better.  That being said, I think I can spot a good soccer player when I see one, and the opposition team had a few more than the team I played for.  However, the team I played for was more competitive.  Oh. Maybe I should state that I played for a team of misfit Food for the Hungry Canadians (no offense guys if you read my column), while the opposition was a diverse and experienced Food for the Hungry Guatemalan team.  It was all in fun though, and boy it was fun.

Unlike our soccer here, the small court requires much more ball precision, especially when it comes to passing.  The passing lanes tend to fill up very quickly.  It plays like hockey in the sense that there are five players plus a goalie on each team, but it is gentlemen's hockey as there is no hitting.  Blocking is allowed though and with the fast pace of the game there were a few collisions.  No one got hurt though and it was all in fun.

What I really liked about the game was how controlled it was, well at least for the opposition.  Despite the competitive nature of the game and the language barrier between opposing players, there was a bond being built.  Personalities come out when one competes.  During this game each of us was sharing his or her personality with the others in a manner that will allow us to remember each other 3 or 4 years down the road when we might work together again to better a community.  The slight built, taller, and slightly cocky looking player, who backed up his personality with his quick foot work and skilled, play-making leaves an impression.  The older, stocky, slightly over weight, thinker, who quietly dominated the game with hardly seeming to move, surely will be remembered.  They might remember me for my in-ability to put the ball in the net, or maybe my persistent but clumsy defense.

Competitive sports, whether hockey or court soccer, often breeds a respect for others and during this trip I gained a great deal of respect for the resilient people of this struggling country.  Despite having to continually work simply to survive, many still find time to play and build relationships that will last a lifetime.  Their talent on the court proves it.

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