Reclaiming Playtime

by Sonya Mohamed

I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the time I spent playing competitive soccer. It played a critical part in my development and helped cultivate many of the qualities I value in myself. It built character, discipline, and provided me with a helpful structure (which kept me healthy and - more or less - out of trouble). The group of girls that I played with became a second family and my coach, a role model for how to be gracious and fiercely competitive.

Though each year I played, and the older I got, the experience kept transforming into something more than just playing soccer. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Other external factors began to cloud the purpose of what I was doing. Before I knew it, I wasn’t playing for the joy of playing anymore. By the time I was in college, it was this rigid, soulless, future-oriented thing I was doing that had me questioning whether I even enjoyed it anymore. I had made it to where I wanted to go, playing on a Division I soccer team, and quickly realized it wasn't somewhere I wanted to be. 

I’m not saying that’s everyone experience playing competitive sports, but I don’t think that was an uncommon experience either. What I came to realize this past year, and it seems to correlate with growing up, is that the playfulness that made soccer and other games so fun started to slip away. Not all at once, but slowly and consistently. Being an adult and playing around felt like they were at odds with each other. So much so that to be playful carried with it a connotation of immaturity. Now how did that happen? Why had they become mutually exclusive? Play is vitally important to our happiness, our health and wellness, our creativity and we've all but outlawed it from our adulthood. 

Now's the time to bring it back, and it's certainly never too late. Here is something to aspire to: