I fully expect a mob of YOBBERS to tie me to the whipping post when I say this, but I love sports and I love competition. I love the push, the struggle, the fight toward victory. I love the way my chest burns when I am on the brink of exhaustion and the tiny voice in my head that says faster.

My love for sports and competition had always been there, but for years it had been buried. Buried beneath the thickest layers of shame. It was only through a powerful friendship that I was able to unearth these passions.

As I’d learn, the shame that drove me away from sports alienated me from the very thing that would, in some ways, heal me — that thing happened to be community.

Guys who were willing to be close to me whether I was masculine or not.

Guys who would encourage me to be better and teach me when I was humble enough to ask for help.

Guys who would let me take the lead, even when I didn’t think I was good enough.

The more I played, the more I saw good things in myself that I hadn’t seen before.

I began to test my limits with guys who were bigger and stronger than me. I got knocked down a couple times and walked away confused when my body didn’t move as fast as I thought it would. I remember running directly into a guy and hitting him — it felt like I’d hit a brick wall, and it was awesome!

It’s good to honor your power and also to honor another man’s.

For years, I had specifically avoided football because I sucked at throwing the ole pigskin around. I couldn’t get the ball to spin through the air; it just kind of flopped. Then, one day I owned my fear of embarrassment and threw the football around.

I’d rather suck in solitude, but I swallowed my pride and we played for a while. Yeah, I still sucked big time, but I kept throwing and eventually was able to throw the ball as well as a seven-year-old.

I began to allow myself to confidently engage in activities. I had never really given my all or allowed myself to experience the desire for victory. As a kid, my dad would periodically play with us, and his thirst for victory would always spoil the fun.

I decided long ago that aggression was bad and I wanted nothing to do with it. Aggression would always lead to shouting matches on the field and feelings being hurt; it was sinful.

But now I was seeing that one can be wildly passionate and assertive in his pursuits.

I was letting go of all the fears that I had about sports and competition. The more I played, the surer of myself and my abilities I became.

Yeah, I’m as skinny as a toothpick and have weak knees, but I am no less capable. I am so glad that when the guys invited me out, I said yes.

So, in the words of every umpire: “PLAY BALL.”

Talk about your experience with sports and competition. Have you always hated sports, or have you come around to them? Share a pivotal sports moment you’ve experienced — triumphant or shameful.

* Photo courtesy madanaelu, Creative Commons.

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