Print Edition: March 13, 2013
I made the choice to play in a men’s league this winter. I did pretty well, surviving almost three months of play before I suffered an injury. After getting tripped up and tossed on the ground I received a nice elbow to the right side of the face. A severe concussion, stitches and major swelling quickly followed. Needless to say, I have learned my lesson and will think twice about playing in a men’s league again in the near future.
Everyone knows the weekend warrior. It’s a term most often used to describe men and women who neglect to be active through the work week and get out onto their respective playing field/court/ice rink over the weekend to try to relive the glory days. As a guy who considers himself pretty active and enjoys competition, I have run into a fair share of these individuals.
My sport of choice is basketball. This sport, for reasons unknown to me, seems to draw in many older guys who just can’t let it go. I have been fortunate to spend the majority of my adult years playing at a high level of competitive sport, but in the rare case that I have found myself in the setting of a men’s league or intramural league I have learned (often the hard way) that this environment is not a safe one.
The first strike against a men’s or women’s league is that often it runs only once a week. Over the years the sheer number of gruesome injuries I have seen is staggering. Broken legs, shattered knee caps, torn ligaments, sprained ankles, dislocated shoulders, concussions – the list goes on and on. The problem is that the majority of the individuals who compete in these leagues were once high-level athletes. They come into each game expecting their bodies to perform how they might have five to 10 years before. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak.
Strike two against these leagues is the type of players it attracts. Ex-athletes who can still taste the sweetness of victory and success from their glory days, or those who didn’t quite achieve what they wanted in their youth and are coming back to prove themselves. Either way these two groups are a cause for trouble. If they are successful, the ego overflows and the trash talk begins; if they get embarrassed, tempers overflow and “dirty play” ensues. All roads lead to conflict.
The final strike against these leagues is the poor level of officiating and enforcement of rules. If a ref misses one call it leads to an escalation of physical play or emotion, which lead to confrontation and conflict. Realistically, with no formal discipline policy, there is no way to truly control the individuals on the court.
My three months of men’s league consisted of me avoiding unnecessary contact, avoiding any level of over-competitiveness and allowing myself to simply enjoy participating in sport. At the most basic level, men’s league can be fun – if you are just there to enjoy the sport and are willing to set aside your ego. As long as you are approaching the sport for what it was originally created for—recreational enjoyment—a men’s or women’s league can be a great outlet. But if you run into someone who is there with the intention of reliving the glory days, problems are just around the corner.
Ultimately, I have to say that despite all the strikes against recreational basketball leagues you will still find me out on the court as long as my aging body will allow. If this means that I have to risk injury to continue to play, then that is the risk I am willing to take.