There’s something magical and truly indescribable about playing competitive team sports. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely had the experience yourself and have possibly struggled to describe it to people in the “real world.” While driving back to Toronto from the Boston Invite 2 days ago I was, once again, thinking about how amazing these experiences are, particularly this year as I struggled heavily with finding my mojo.
About 8 weeks ago, I found out that I didn’t make Capitals (Toronto-Ottawa elite team) and since then I have struggled with low intensity, little drive, and at times, admittedly, I have even lost all desire to play ultimate. For 6 months leading up to the final try-out, I was at the gym almost daily, I was learning new O and D strategies in “Caps classes”, and generally exhausting myself emotionally with fantasies of winning CUCs this coming August and representing Canada at WUCs in 2012. My goal was to make the top team possible, which, to me, meant having to work my ass off to earn whatever little playing time I got. Although I knew making Capitals would be tough, the loss of that as my goal became detrimental to myself, my game, and to my new team, Lotus. As you can imagine, co-captaining Lotus was not how I envisioned my summer. I lost my mojo.
This past weekend was our first real tournament as Lotus. Wednesday night, I still didn’t have my mojo. I knew I HAD to do something to get it back. I remembered a tactic I used last year for CUCs in Sherbrooke while still playing with Salty (Halifax), when I had a similar lack-of-mojo problem. I started the tournament by focusing on my teammates and ignoring my game altogether, since I didn’t seem to care about it anyway. I watched others play and I offered positive and constructive feedback and LOTS OF enthusiasm for them! The results were amazing! I got excited when OTHERS got excited. I ended up working hard to ignite THEIR mojo. I did it for them. But I guess I also did it for me. Because as it turned out, those efforts, and that energy, channelled right through me and into my legs as I ran, into my arms as I threw, and into my core as I stood my ground. I found my mojo then and there!
I even got this email back from one young talented young woman after the fact last year:
I just wanted to thank you and tell you how awesome you are! Haha, I had an awesome time at Nationals this year, and all season really. I finally felt like myself in tournaments this year, and achieved goals higher than I expected. Your advice on the sideline was extremely helpful. I think the most shocking moment for me was the last game against Exo when you yelled at me during a stoppage in play to cut off the sideline lane right away. I did as you said, and ran right into the D! I never would have thought to leave my mark like that, but I’m realizing that on defense I have to start anticipating more… I look to you as my example of what I need to be. You were a big part of my success, and will continue to be as I strive to be as great a player as you! So thanks for believing in me, and pushing me forwards. 🙂
That email came long after the games ended but served as great feedback that when I couldn’t find it within myself, I could find it within others. So I decided to use my teammates as a way to find my mojo again.
Finding my mojo actually began Thursday during practice, inadvertently. After an incredibly intense and positive practice, I guided a visualization and had us all standing on the imaginary line waiting for the pull. While doing so, someone snuck away and quietly placed each of our brand new numbered and named Lotus jerseys in front of us. I had everyone picture themselves in their new jerseys and then on the count of three they all opened their eyes to see their very-real jerseys right there. Giggles, gasps, and sounds of awe filled the open air as everyone quickly put on their jerseys and paraded around. I’m sure many of the smiles lasted well into the evening. I, myself, went home and spent longer than I’d like to admit admiring myself in front of a mirror as I alternated between my light and dark.
The next morning we went to Boston. We won our first two games. We were on a high. And then we lost…as a result we met our rivals, Stella (Ottawa), in a cross-over game. Our pre-game speech was simply put: “This is our long-time rival Stella. It feels great to beat them. Let’s do it.”
That simple speech was powerful for me. I felt like I was playing to honor the Lotus legacy! And when we won I started to cry. I had actually just played in the classic Lotus-Stella game that I had been watching from the sidelines for years! I realized that I was Lotus! And everyone there was also Lotus! We were Lotus and with that comes an incredible responsibility and honor.
For the rest of the weekend we continued to gel, grow, and we did what most competitive teams do on such weekends: we bonded. Bonding is a laborous process. I imagine it is as similar to that of giving birth. Through physical and mental pain and exertion we birth a winning joy that is so deep it can rattle the world and with that we give rise to a glorious new life as a member of a team for that season. In the background, our oxytocin levels rise and promote new connections in our brains that support this team bonding. The experience, and the accompanying biochemicals, were imprinting themselves on my brains with “here’s your mojo Mandy”.
Erroneously, I thought my mojo was tied up exclusively in competitiveness and, consequently, I thought I lost it when I didn’t make Capitals. In reality, competitiveness is not the only ingredient but my mojo requires the intangible team bonding ingredient to really solidify. My mojo is tied up in this team bonding, this collection of like-minded people all working hard, exerting and pushing themselves, laboriously, toward a common goal. My mojo is, in fact, a collective mojo that can be tapped into from many angles, whether it’s a focus on other people’s potential, watching others get excited about their jerseys, believing that we are winning a game in honor of the entire club’s history, or have a great layout D right in front of a teammate cheering us on. I now know that I can tap into this collective mojo simply because I am on a team. This is reassuring. This is the truly indescribable and magical part about being on a competitive sports team that I know I can’t explain to just anyone. And that’s where I will find my mojo when I misplace it again!