Dear Rachel,

I belong to a Jewish women’s softball team, and we get together weekly. The women spanThere are a few women who only seem to care about winning the spectrum of agesfrom teenager to retirees. It’s all good fun and good exercise. I don’t particularly care who wins, but there are a few competitive women who only seem to care about winning and who step on their own team members’ toes, literally as well as figuratively. It bothers me to see them care more about the score than about how they are treating their fellow athletes. I don’t want to stop going, but it really irks me when they treat me and others like second-class players because we don’t score as often.

Wants to be a good sport

Dear Team Spirit,

A little bit of competition is fun and adds an edge to the game, but when winning and being the best become the main goal, then things can get ugly.

People have different levels of competitive nature. Competitiveness is less of a problem when you are doing a solo sport like pole-vaulting, but when you’re part of a team and you’re competing against your own members, you end up hurting feelings and causing resentment, not to mention lowering morale.

There’s a concept in Judaism of hasagat gvul—impinging on someone else’s territory. This is usually referred to in business when someone, for example, opens a store in proximity to a similar business already there. But perhaps we can expand it to include usurping someone’s role, space, job, social network or even a game. This comes from the belief that my needs are more important than your needs, and that I can’t trust that I’ll be able to have my way or play my part or get what I want without aggressively impinging on your territory and stepping on your toes. Basically, when someone does that, they are overshadowing the other person’s G‑dly image, denying the value, importance and humanity of another person.

I’m sure this sounds harsh and overcritical; after all, we’re only talking about a game. Yet there is something insidious about overzealousness thatIt’s a shame to have a few people spoil the multigenerational harmony can ruin the fun, which is the object of a game. Many people still nurse the emotional wounds of their childhood-playground injuries—from not being included in a group or being ridiculed for their performance. If it happens when they’re adults, then it opens old wounds. It’s a shame to have a few people spoil the multigenerational harmony and enjoyment of your softball game.

So what can you do? Learning to get along is part of learning to become a team.

  • You can send a message to the group asking that they add fair play to the rules of the game;
  • You can talk nicely to the guilty parties, asking them to be more considerate and inclusive;
  • You could ask the team captain to put you in a position far away from these women.

However, the only thing that you ultimately have control of is how fair you play. Making sure that you play by the rules and avoid conflict with other members of the team is the best effort that you can make.

And when not on the playing field, you can redouble your efforts to respect other people’s spaces, efforts and dignity. After all, the Jewish people are also a team.

Have a ball!