"Let's put her in the boys league."

When I was around 9 or 10, I played in a girls basketball league... and a boy's. The concept was that I would become a better player if I was playing amongst the bigger, more aggressive, and faster-paced boy players than I would if I only played with the girls. So I played in both leagues. Playing in two leagues, of course, meant double the playing time, double the skills/drills, and double the improvement but playing in a boys league also forced me to play beyond my skill level. It was scary at first and I didn't feel like my playing was anywhere close to what it needed to be. I didn't feel ready to embarrass myself in front of a bunch of boys I went to school with either. But those thoughts didn't change the fact that I was playing in a boy's league and that was that. 

But here's the deal, as adults, we don't challenge ourselves by sticking with situations that force us to play up. We feel comfortable with what we know and it's a rare thing to put ourselves in or tough it out in places where we are forced to admit we are not quite good enough. That we aren't experts. That we're just beginning. That we are out of our league.

Playing up is what helps us grow and become the best version of ourselves. Without playing up every once in a while, we begin to feel hopeless, depressed, and self-conscious. When we play up, we learn to be confident and trust ourselves in situations or environments that feel out of our depth. We learn that if we apply ourselves, nothing is out of our reach. We also place ourselves in a learning mindset... one of confidence and humility all at once. 

So how'd the boys season end up? Well by no means was I the best player on the boy's team but by the end of the season, the boys weren't afraid to pass me the ball and I think I even scored a few baskets. I never went on to play college ball or anything like that but it was never really about that. Sure, I became a better player but I think my parents wanted to teach me to play up and frankly, that skill/mindset has stayed with me my entire life. Have there been times where you've played up and it's paid off? Do you agree that you need to play up once in a while to keep growing in life?

Photo by Nathan Anderson