Playing for fun

After a long day of teaching, I watched some TV tonight with my husband to unwind. One of our favorite shows is “According To Jim”. The episode we watched tonight was about his daughters Gracey and Ruby, who were in a basketball team that ‘plays for fun’, and at the end of the game, everyone (winners and loosers) took home a trophy and had a great time. The girls went home and tried to make a cake, but forgot to set the timer – the cake was burned, they shrugged, saying “It’s ok, we had fun, and we tried hard”. Jim was concerned about this attitude that emphasized ‘fun’ instead of hard work and achievement and decided to coach the basketball team himself. He trained hard, and his older daughter, Ruby, improved her skills big-time under his regimen, while his younger daughter, Gracey, rejected the harsh training and decided to switch team so she could be with the other team that now ‘plays for fun’. The competition day arrived, and guess what, Jim’s team lost and the fun team won. Before Gracey surprisingly gave the winning free-throw (Gracey herself doubted she could do it, and Ruby was certain Gracey would disappoint just as she did during the training), Jim had an ‘a-ha moment’ and said to Gracey: “It is just a game, no matter what happens, I will still love you. Just go and have fun”.

Of course in the real world, no basketball team would just count on having fun and win a game without training. What Jim did learn was that his girls had very different personalities; while one thrived on hard work and discipline, the other one had just as much potential, only it had to be brought out with nurturing words of encouragement.

Arianna McMorris and Sarah Cain

In my studio, I hope my students view our team as a ‘fun team that trains hard’. I believe in teaching my students the importance of hard work; at the same time, it is important to me that they are enjoying themselves and having fun. This delicate balance is one I am constantly reviewing with every student. Some students are like Ruby – they thrive on discipline, while some are like Gracey – they shut down when pushed too far. Students like Ruby benefit from coaches like Jim – they blossom and flourish; in the fun team, Ruby’s potential was ‘wasted’. But a real-life Gracey, without Jim’s final turn-around words of encouragement, would have disappointed herself and probably never want to play basketball again.

As a teacher, I would never risk treating a Gracey as if she was a Ruby; the risk of the student rejecting or hating music is too great. How often have we heard people say “I used to have piano lessons when I was younger, but I hated them; I did not want to do them, but my parents made me”. How sad that is. Plenty talented students give up music in the end because they were pushed too far. But, I am also always looking out for a potential Ruby in my team, one whose personality can withstand rigorous training regimen. I am also aware that most children are malleable. A Gracey can also be taught the merits of discipline, she can learn that she has even more fun after she works hard, and a Ruby should also be taught to find fun and enjoyment, so that she does not burn out from the constant hard work and pressure to succeed.

Are you playing for fun? Are you playing at all?

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