In my town, there's a recreational volleyball group that's run by the town's Recreation Division. It's not a “league”; you don't have to sign up as part of a team, there's no tournament, there's no trophy. You sign up as an individual, and you go to the designated school gym on volleyball nights. There's “co-ed volleyball” night and “advanced co-ed volleyball” night. I go for the latter; some of the people I play with go to both. The people who show up on any given night divide into teams semi-randomly, and play.
I like that mechanism. When I say the teams are picked “semi-randomly”, I mean that we know the different skill levels of the people who come, and we try to distribute that approximately evenly. At “advanced” night, we play each game to win, but once one game is over we remember the result only long enough to have the losing team serve first in the next game. Then it's forgotten. No one worries about how many games each team has won. There's no “season record”.
I had a good time at it this week, as I always do. We played some competetive games, got some exercise, and had fun. Lots of mistakes were made. Some people made the same mistakes that they make over and over again. Sometimes I shake my head about it, and wonder why we see the same mistakes repeatedly, but others probably shake their heads about my mistakes too. The point is that it's recreational, and we do our best, and we have a good time. We don't yell at each other, we don't get into fights, no one gets suspended. Agnes brings brownies sometimes, for after the games.
We have no referees; we call our own lines and fouls. In the advanced group, we try to be fairly strict about it, but we never have arguments. If there's a disagreement, we just good-naturedly do a replay; it's not worth fighting about. We'll jokingly say that the result of the replay tells us what really happened. “It must have been ‘out’ after all,” we'll say.
And I remember recreational sports groups where that wasn't the case. We've all seen or heard of little league baseball or soccer groups, where the parents (usually, not the kids) were too, too serious about it, where the urge to “win” took over, above the desire to have fun.
I used to play in a softball league at work, and one time I remember being on the sidelines as our team was in the field. Someone missed a catch, overthrew the ball, or some such, and one of my teammates who was on the sidelines with me started yelling at those in the field. “Damn it!”, he said, “You look like a bunch of amateurs out there!” Uh, but we are a bunch of amateurs, I reminded him.
We shouldn't forget that. It's all the most fun if we take it just seriously enough, but not too much.