Why I Quit Debating

Written by  //  September 11, 2015  //  Reflections, Sport  //  Comments Off

Having watched my brother work his socks off year round for years on his way to national roller-skating medals, I have the utmost respect for those who play competitive sport. It requires effort and dedication, which I cannot imagine devoting to anything, well, with the possible exception of sleeping. While he would wake up every morning at 4:30 to reach the road before the traffic, my only worry would be to not get disturbed by his alarm bells.

And yet, somehow, I am a little put off by the thought of competitive sport. My earliest first-hand experience of approaching a sport competitively was swimming in middle school. Overnight, my conversations changed from being about how cold the water was and whether I thought Ash could ever tame Charizard (a Pokémon character- for the unawares) to a talk of timings and techniques. What had once been an afternoon of fun was now approached with some amount of trepidation. I was no longer merely happy with the fact that I was a good swimmer and enjoyed swimming; I now needed to ensure that I would be on the team. Eventually, my interest in the sport tailed off until it was rekindled almost a year later by the scorching heat of Bombay’s summer.

My second brush with competition came barely a year later when I found myself on the fringes of the school cricket team. I had started playing at the school ground (read: parking lot) because friends in my building had stopped coming down to play thanks to our collective obsession with board exams. Once again, it started off as me going to play a sport I enjoyed, and culminated in me struggling for my place in the XI. The stories I’d tell my parents on going home changed from ‘woah, I actually swung a ball’ to ‘I think I’m better suited for this position than him’.  Wanting to hang on to my love for the sport, and buoyed by the fact that a whole set of friends had finished their boards, another sport was quit.

Recently, I had occasion, yet again, to quit a sport in order to hold on to my love for it. This time it was debating. You may laugh at my characterization of debating as a sport, but that was precisely my problem: along with several others, I had begun approaching debating as a sport. It started with a love for debating for the sake of debating itself. I was fascinated by the idea of being forced to think about things I’d never cared for, often in support of positions I abhorred, trying to find that argument that would clinch it. A year in, and I found myself hankering after breaks and wins. Like many other law school debaters, I was reading up as much as I could to be prepared for any motion that could come my way. Arguments were not always things that were arrived upon with great thought in those fifteen minutes leading to a whoop of delight; they would often be ones I had used before and was refining or had read in an editorial. Thinking was on its way out.

The fact that competition changed the way I approached the sport wasn’t all. In each instance, with little in the first and a lot in the last, came along sniping and whispering. There would be talk of who was better and quite often, it wouldn’t be very pleasant. At the start, I would always tell myself not to let others affect my enjoyment of something I loved. But it did.

Competition does push us in ways that we wouldn’t dream of otherwise. I have swum with cuts all over my hands from a fall, stinging with each stroke, merely because that practice session was essential. But if it stopped being fun, what was the point?

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