Every person in every sport got into it for the same reason: because it’s fun. At some point in time, “fun” stops being the top priority, the top emotional association associated with sports. The game too often becomes life and death, and only when something goes poorly do we remind ourselves of the true stakes. “It’s only a game,” after all.
Jonah Keri of CBSSports had an interesting look at how arguably the three most successful coaches in the three major professional sports — Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors and Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs — use fun as a cornerstone of their respective programs.
“The biggest thing for me was understanding where he comes from and why he does this stuff. Because it is a long season,” said Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. “The word fun gets thrown around a lot. But you want things to be relaxed. You don’t want guys beating their heads against the wall for seven, eight months. So things like having optional batting practice, we’re traveling and we’re going to wear messed-up suits, anything just to break up the monotony of those eight months.”
Says Maddon, of himself: “If it’s going to wear you down, if it’s going to make you wary, then why would you want to do it? So it’s got to be fun… I have not done one thing in my life that I haven’t had fun doing.”
As a player, Kerr played for two coaches that, on the outside, fun seemed a foreign concept in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. The inside of those programs, though, was quite different than one might expect. “Both Phil and Pop were interesting human beings who really cared about their players,” Kerr said. “They both created a balance between discipline — getting work in everyday — and fun. It can’t just be a summer camp run wild where you do whatever you want. There was always some structure behind it too. But I always thrived best in those situations when I enjoyed myself.”
That attitude has been infused with Kerr and the Warriors. “Don’t take yourself so seriously! We make fun of each other, make fun of ourselves, let the players make fun of us,” he said. It’s just a game!”