Re-learning to Play

One of the gifts that Mayson has given me over the past 11 months was a reintroduction of how to play. You can put this in the category of things that I never imagined I would learn from my baby boy. I mean most, if not all of my life has been based around playing. Working, I would say has never been one of my strong suits. I always received praise for my “work ethic” during my baseball career but to me my extra “work” in the batting cage or on the field never once seemed like work. To me, work was putting in the extra hours of study so that I could raise my grade from a C to an A or doing a job simply to earn extra money. I’ve done those things but none with great regularity as I quickly lose my interest and look for something more fun and playful.

That being said, watching Mayson made me realize that I had lost or forgotten the true essence of playing. “Play” is defined as “engaging in a sport or activity for enjoyment”. Watching Mayson play it’s clear that there is no purpose to his activities other than the pure enjoyment that it brings him. When he picks up his little baseball bat he’s not trying to improve as a hitter and produce more hits he simply enjoys swinging the bat and watching it hit the ball. When he’s in the pool he doesn’t swim to try to loose weight or to get in better shape he simply loves the feel of the water, making it splash on his face, and I would imagine he enjoys the way he moves through it. Hide and seek isn’t a game to win, he’s not concerned with being the “best” he just does what he does because he enjoys doing it.

Recently I was watching an interview with world-renowned surfer Laird Hamilton. During the interview he discussed how he left the sport of professional surfing and stopped competing after only a couple of events. He talked about how growing up he watched his father and his friends experience pain after not placing well in a surfing competition. The activity which was supposed to bring them so much joy became tainted and a source of pain based on the opinions of others. As a result of this experience he decided to stop competing and to simply do what he loved for no other reason than he loved to do it. He wasn’t interested in becoming the best or having some purpose behind his passion. He simply did it for the love of doing it and as such has not only become one of the best surfers and surfing innovators of all time but has probably experienced more joy out of his passion then most of us ever will.

This interview coupled with my experiences watching Mayson I began to realize that I had completely forgotten how to play. My passion has always been the game of baseball but at a young age the joy of playing became replaced by the effort of striving. Playing for me always had a purpose. I was always trying to reach a higher level of performance, a higher level of competition, and ultimately ascend to the major leagues. The game began to lose the joy that it once provided me. It began to give more painful moments than moments of joy. Even when I played well I didn’t experience the intense level of joy that I did as a kid. Getting hits and making great plays just meant I didn’t have to feel bad. I didn’t feel good I just didn’t feel bad.

A few years ago I started surfing and in the beginning it was very much like when I first started playing baseball. It didn’t matter the size or quality of the wave or the length of the ride. I was just “stoked” to be out on the water and riding waves. As my ability improved surfing sessions began to have a purpose. It started to become about catching the best wave, improving as a surfer, pulling better tricks, surfing bigger waves, and hoping to become a respected member of the surfing community. In a very short period of time surfing had become just like baseball. Yes it was still fun but the purpose behind it caused me to experience less joy in the experience. I wasn’t surfing or playing baseball for enjoyment I was doing these things for a purpose and as such began to experience more stress and less enjoyment out of the things I was passionate about.

Watching Mayson has given me the gift of falling back in love with the things I love to do. He’s shown me how to do things for the pure enjoyment of the experience and nothing else. As a result I’ve rediscovered my pure passion for the game of baseball. I’ve fallen in love with just swinging the bat again, playing catch, and taking ground balls. He’s helped me to regain the joy in surfing, working out, or any of the myriad of activities I love to engage in. It’s shown me to become fully present with the things I engage in, to pursue the things I’m passionate about for no other reason then the joy they bring me. That when I attach purpose to my play this takes me out of the present moment which adds stress and reduces my enjoyment of the activity.

I’ve said it before but it really is amazing what you can learn from your baby.

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3 Responses to Re-learning to Play

  1. MamaPlus says:

    Reblogged this on MamaPlus and commented:
    Reblog from Ryan Dambach – thank you!

  2. Karen Dambach says:

    What a joy to read!!!

  3. My wife and I had our 5 year old grandson for the past 3 days…the greatest joy in the world was getting down on the floor with him and playing with cars…they flew through the air, they rolled on 2 wheels, they flipped end over end, they went sideways, they talked, they did wheelies…and the whole time he laughed and smiled…it was the best.

    Thanks for writing.

    Be encouraged!

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