I totally would've been Pvt. Pyle in Full Metal Jacket
December 30, 2011 6:42 AM   Subscribe

When playing sports, I don't handle the "drill sergeant" personality well, at all. How do I change myself?

When participating in my team sport of choice, quite often other players will shout things to encourage everyone during warm-ups and drills. "Keep up", "hurry up", "let's go", "move it!", "go, go, go!" things like that. Trying to be the drill sergeant, to push me to work harder and improve.

However, when they do it, I get very "fuck you, *you* can't tell me what to do" and start slacking off. They don't inspire me to push myself, I just end up thinking they're jerks and tools. I get junior high gym teacher flashbacks.

Information that is most likely relevant: this is the first team sport I have *ever* played. I'm in my late 30's.

I can't expect them to change, so I have to change myself. Suggestions/tips/ideas?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, I am the same way. I played a lot of team sports as a kid, but lost interest around middle school when my grar authority personality started kicking in. My mom made me play volleyball all through high school, though (because I "wouldn't get into college" if I didn't play a varsity sport), and I hated it so much. SO MUCH. I also was pretty crappy at it, which didn't help matters.

I handled the drill sergeant crap by funneling my aggression into serving. "These assholes think they can tell me what to do?!" [THWAP] "Think you'd still say that with my foot rammed up your ass?!" [THWAP] "Run laps because some other chick was late to practice!?" [THWAP] And so on.

I was really good at serving.

It should be noted, however, that I haven't played any sports since.
posted by phunniemee at 6:50 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just ignore it. Ignoring it is just as much as a dismissal as rebellion, but it's far more compatible with MY goals, which is to be awesome, and/or have a good time with good people.

That said, anyone with their head genuinely mired in a "You're either with us or against us" level of counter-productive rubbish gets serious loss of respect, and is unlikely to be invited to parties :)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:51 AM on December 30, 2011

I get junior high gym teacher flashbacks.

Suggestion: When this happens, remind yourself that a junior high flashback is not an excuse to behave like you're still in junior high. You don't have to try harder if you don't want to, but trying LESS hard because of a personality conflict isn't going to help the team (which I imagine you want to do if you're willing to go to warm-ups and practice drills). Ignore them and do as much as you would've if they weren't there.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:35 AM on December 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

i hate that shit too. sometimes i can remember not to let other people steal my joy, sometimes i can't. the principle is clear enough, though: it's irrational to punish other people by hurting myself (i.e. by lowering my performance). easier said than done sometimes. one very strong response is to ask them not to do it and to tell them it fucks with your motivation. best case, they stop doing it, worst case, you've spoken up and not swallowed your feelings.
posted by facetious at 7:38 AM on December 30, 2011

There's a big difference between encouragement/solidarity ("come on guys, faster, let's go, keep it up!") and drill-sergeant/junior-high gym teacher stuff ("can't you move any faster than that? You're holding back the team!") Your teammates would probably feel awful to learn that you were hearing the latter when they intended the former.

Maybe at the beginning of practice you can remind yourself of the difference and take a deep breath focused on the idea that your teammates are just trying to ramp up the energy level and aren't trying to belittle each other or you. That way you start practice thinking of your teammates in the most positive light.

In the end, you need to decide what you're there for, and ignore any and all distractions from those goals. Are you there for fun? Then "screw-you-drill-sergeant" detracts from the fun. Exercise/skill development? Slowing down to spite someone else doesn't make sense. Friendship? Thinking of your teammates as bullies gets in the way.

So think about what you're doing there, and stay focused on your own goals. A little bumper-sticker mantra you repeat to yourself each time you hear the drill sergeant could be helpful.
posted by headnsouth at 8:00 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I only enjoy sports that are less about sheer aggression and more about tact and fun. the team aspect and intense competition removes all the fun from it for me. Not to mention the "move it" and "keep up" crap sounds very toolish to just hear. Maybe that sport is not for you.
posted by zombieApoc at 8:11 AM on December 30, 2011

Maybe team sports aren't for and you should try something more individual - tennis, golf, fencing, whatever. But even at that, if you are working with a coach or trainer, you are going to hear that kind of encouragement, because that is what coaches do.
posted by COD at 8:21 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was actually struck by your examples of what people are saying as general encouragement. I think what you need to do is realize that what their saying is intended to be encouraging (like, "hey, I'm rooting for you here! you're awesome and you can do it!") and not domineering (like, "hurry up your loser"). As long as the words they're saying aren't demeaning, just look beyond the words and to the intention behind it. When I played soccer, we'd get this a lot from our coach, teammates who weren't in the game, or from parents on the sidelines. It's their way of participating since they're on the sidelines and can't do anything else to help us win.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:29 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The OP is a friend of mine, and asked me to post this:

"Thanks for your responses so far. Quitting the sport is not an option. Despite my problems with "drill sergeant" teammates – NOT coaches – I love this sport with all my heart, and will only quit when I can't play anymore.

"If I could mark best answers so far, they would go to phunniemee and headnsouth. Those responses are the closest to my mindset."

On preview, this was sent to me before DoubleLune's answer came in.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:39 AM on December 30, 2011

Those kind of comments are commonplace in team sports. They are all basically calls to work harder for the benefit of the group/team.

I understand your feelings, when I go to Pilates or yoga, I get caught up in the lingo used there and felt it was silly. My wife had to convince me that it might not be motivational to me, but it is to others. So now I go, don't worry about what they say and just think "Why are all these ladies kicking my ass? I need to win this yoga class!" to motivate myself. All the ladies are still much, much better than me, but I use the motivation that works for me.

Find the motivation in your head that works for you. You might try visualizing the comments as if they are going through a translator.

"Go, go, go" = "You're doing great and capable of even more!"
"Hurry up, let's go" = "I can't do this by myself, I need your help!"
"Keep up" = "You have inner strength, help the rest of us by using it."
posted by Argyle at 8:41 AM on December 30, 2011

Do you participate? Adding in some "Nice work! Way to go!" shouts might make you feel better.
posted by orangejenny at 10:13 AM on December 30, 2011

You need to get over it. Your team, whatever sport you're playing, needs team leaders and these kinds of internal encouragement to maintain a workable structure. The "fuck you" attitude is making you a bad teammate and a bad player. In fact, you should be doing what they're doing, which, believe it or not, is encouragement.
posted by cmoj at 11:11 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Typically people say things like "come on guys, faster!" because they want you to move faster. Moving more slowly in response to a request/ direction to move faster makes you a bad teammate, basically. If you want to be part of a real team you need to get over yourself and learn that when someone yells directions at you its not personal. If you actually try to do what they ask you to do you might be surprised at how much you improve your skills.
posted by fshgrl at 11:38 AM on December 30, 2011

Try to put yourself into the mind of the person doing the shouting.

I play on a rec soccer team. I've played soccer since I was 5 and played with and against people that are now in the MLS. Some people on my rec team are relatively new to soccer. I tell them what to do sometimes and I am very vocal during games. This is because if they do what I tell them, chances are, our team will have a better result, with the added bonus that they will be learning how to play better. If they don't want to play better or have the team do better, then I am not sure why they are there. Exercise? Go for a run. This is a team sport. If you know enough about the game and think I am full of it, good for you, ignore me or challenge what I say.

Whatever your profession is, imagine a total newbie coming into it and working on your team. Would you tell her what to do sometimes? Would you be forceful and authoritative in your direction / advice sometimes? This is part of what is happening on the field (along with the "team cohesion" thing).
posted by 3FLryan at 12:01 PM on December 30, 2011

I can't expect them to change, so I have to change myself. Suggestions/tips/ideas?

Hmm, I don't know about this. You're on the team too, so you influence what the team does just as much as anyone else. And not all teams use those particular phrases to encourage each other. And those phrases sound kind of generic to me. On any sports team I've been on, things people would yell at you to motivate/help you were way more personalized than that. Some of them were in-jokes, some were made-up chants and songs, some were reminders about specific aspects of your performance that are hard to remember when you're in the moment. I had one coach who would jokingly goad us with the lines you mention because he wanted us to get motivationally pissed off, that we were working our asses off ready to puke while he was standing there yelling out commentary. The point of this is, you can change it up. You can start encouraging your teammates in different and more personalized ways than what is currently done, and it's quite possible that others might start doing the same.
posted by cairdeas at 12:02 AM on December 31, 2011

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