Playing Defense

Playing Defense

Shane BarnhillTuesday,3 November 2015

From time to time, playing hockey teaches me something about life. But this isn’t a post about hockey — not really, anyway — so if you’re not interested in the sport, don’t worry, you can keep reading.

Anyway, I enjoy the game, and the camaraderie with my teammates, but I’m not a good player. I have only been playing for about two years, so I’m adequate. I play a role and I do what I can to help my team win.

But when I started playing, I was terrible. Couldn’t skate. Couldn’t shoot. Couldn’t pass very well. I was out of my comfort zone. So I became defensive. Literally. I asked my team captain for a position change —  from forward to defense — so that instead of minimizing my team’s scoring chances through my hockey skill deficiencies, I could apply my geometry skills and skate in angles to minimize the other team’s scoring opportunities. You know, the whole skating to where the puck is going type of thing. That, I could do.

But in hindsight, it’s clear to me that I didn’t embrace defense as part of a well-planned, self-aware choice to emphasize my strengths. I was just reacting to fear and trying to minimizing risk and discomfort.

Beer league hockey isn’t a life or death situation, of course, but for a true newbie — someone without the decades of muscle memory that his teammates and opponents have developed — there’s still an element of fear. Fear of whiffing on a wild swing. Fear of killing a scoring opportunity, again, by skating offsides. I could go on.

So I guess I came here today to make a confession: I was afraid then, and once again, I’m afraid.

It’s not important why I’m afraid this time. It’s not hockey; but really, the situation isn’t really important. What is important is that I recognize how I’ve reacted, once again, to another uncomfortable situation in my life.

I’ve transitioned from offense to defense.

I haven’t been living in attack mode, trying to score. Instead, I’ve been making conservative choices, trying to limit mistakes, and doing my best to slow down the advance of a threat.

I don’t know where the puck is going this time, and I’m not sure how I’ll overcome my new fears. But I know what the first step in that process is, because I just completed it.

I called my team captain, and asked him for a position change. I’m done as a defenseman. It’s time to play offense, and focus on goals.

And not just on the rink.


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Image Credit: clyde on Flickr

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