Why We Need You to Show Up and Play

I have a confession to make. One of my pet peeves is this: I’m annoyed when I play or watch sports and someone who obviously doesn’t want to play the game is on the field (or the court, or the ice, or whatever). They’re on the field, taking up space, but because they don’t want to play, they make no contribution to their team. They hold one spot but add no value to the game.

Because my son plays sports, I see it all the time. Some kids are on the field only because of their parents, but the kids themselves don’t want to play.

I get that kids are in their discovery phase and that parents encourage their kids to try different activities—even if the kid isn’t interested or skilled. But I have to be honest, it’s hard for me to sit on the sideline watching a game and see someone on the field who doesn’t want to play. I have to remind myself that these are kids, and when they get older, they’ll decide what they want to do with their time.

One day, I took my son to his basketball game. At first, he was playing fine. But when his team started to trail by a large margin, he stopped playing. He became a spectator on the court. It took me a dose of self-control not to run on the court and “tackle” him to wake him up.

After the game, we had a talk, where I made it clear to him that if he’s on the court, he must play, otherwise, we go back home, where we can use our time productively. “I don’t care if you’re trailing by 20 points; when you’re on the court, you play. ” He got the message—for the most part.

I wish I could say I only see this behavior at kids’ sports games. Unfortunately, I see it everywhere. People go on the field, but don’t want play. Whether the field is a workplace, a home, a church, or wherever else, these people take up space but add no value.

For example, they drag themselves to the workplace and have no intention to “play” (i.e. they don’t do the work they were hired to do). They want the medals (i.e. the paycheck and the pay raises), but they don’t want to work. They take up a spot in the workplace and on the payroll, but they make no real contribution to the organization.

Real talk. If they’re not going to “play”, they should get off the field and leave the spot for someone who actually wants to play (i.e. make a contribution to the organization).

I know what it’s like to be on a field and not play. I spent years on school benches, taking up space but not doing the work. What a waste… I made up for it later in life.

My message: If you do something, do it. None of this lukewarm stuff. We don’t need more of this. You have a unique and important contribution to make. And the only way you’re going to make it is by showing up to “play”. This is your moment. Don’t miss it.

If you show up on the field, you show up to play. Play. Play full out.