I scored on my own goal (Guest post)

So, the other night I scored on my own soccer goal. Then we lost the game.

But more on that in a moment. First, I would like to point readers to a recent online article, Google Spent 2 Years Studying 180 Successful Teams. The Most Successful Ones Shared These 5 Traits.

A summary of a summary of a study conducted by the ubiquitous Google, this article looks like prime click bait. But after the game, when I was feeling pretty down on myself for contributing to our team’s loss, I clicked.

The article explains the most successful work team traits are dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, impact, and…the fifth (you first have to scroll past an advertisement on the page for added drama) is psychological safety. Apparently it’s superfun to work at Google, which strives to cultivate environments where workers feel safe enough to take risks and ask questions so they will be “less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately…more successful.”

This list of successful work team traits list was good for me to read that night. Everyone fights their own inner battles, and fear of letting the team down has always been mine.

It’s not a unique problem, I know. Nor might it seem like a big deal. A more confident player would say, “Who cares? It’s only a game. It’s only rec sports. Everyone makes mistakes. Just think positively for next time, and get over it.”

“Getting over it” may be a matter of perception, but when one has fear her perception can be all that matters. I don’t have another Google study to back up my thinking, but I believe that fitness gurus who promote a healthy lifestyle through physical activity insufficiently address the psychological component: there may be a large number of folks (like me) who avoid or leave exercise for fear of failure, inadequacy, and judgment. Easier not to show up than to risk letting others down.

Until recently, this fear of mine, irrational and silly as it may seem, had been strong enough to keep me from joining sports teams (which is already out of my comfort zone) well into my adult life.

So, when my very greatest sports-related fear had come to pass, I turned the corner when I realized that I did have “psychological safety.” I DO (or should) feel safe to fail around this group of amazing women, whom I blogged about previously when it came to “finding one’s tribe.”

And, later in the evening, when one team member checked in with me, and another texted to make yoga plans, my clearer thinking was reaffirmed. A non-soccer friend (with whom I was commiserating) suggested that being self-aware about our fears and inadequacies can help us to re-examine with greater clarity how we perceive the judgments of others.

Now here I am, showing no lack of awareness of my private fears as I blog about them publicly on a fitness site that has recently reached 10,000 Facebook likes.

So, to the anxious late-to-the-gamer like me: find a team that will make you feel safe, and stay aware of your feelings so that you can push through them to get yourself out to the next game.

And, to the other Confident Connies playing group sports: By making failure safe for others on your team, you also enable fearful folks to play at all. For me, that win is better than any scored goal (on one’s own net or otherwise).

More feminist than fit, Elan Paulson works at Western University and plays rec soccer in London, Ontario.

4 thoughts on “I scored on my own goal (Guest post)

  1. The goals are just numbers. That denote a more or less concept. The game is the beautiful part; the team and the team work, the best efforts, the challenges met, the limits pushed, the shared contributions. Team sports are so much more than just those more or less numbers. And when we look beyond those numbers, we have a way better experience.

  2. It sounds like you have found a good team. It’s funny, I read the google article and really nodded at the safety point. I have worked in too many teams where there was back stabbing and competition. They are not fun or functional.
    One good thing about scoring on your own goal is you have a story to tell!
    Thank you for sharing it.

  3. As a hockey defenseman, I’ve scored more goals in my own net (thank you stick deflection and shin pad bounce) than in our opponents’. Working through mistakes and bad bounces makes teams stronger. Plus, it makes for good stories in the bar after the game, another good team bonding experience.

  4. I don’t have a team sport which I participate in. What I have is a lumbar MRI with a lot of not good things on it; stenosis, herniation, annular tear, and I have self limited myself in the area of exercise.
    I go – treadmill, elliptical, bicycle, nautilus weight machines, but dabbling in small group workouts with titles like ‘The Power class’ or ‘Cross Fit 45’ is psychologically scary.
    Your post helps me realize that I have diminished a need I should address.
    The last trainer, in a group exercise setting I attended, clearly heard me say, ” I have significant problems with my low back.” Not once did he give me an alternate exercise.
    I walked away when he demonstrated the dead lifts he wanted me to do.

    I need to find a team sport.

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