I was recently on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, MA relaxing and journal writing. I noticed two women hitting a volleyball back and forth in a small box on the sand. In the aftermath of gold and silver medals for U.S. women’s beach volleyball at the London Olympics, these two women played a one on one version, with one big difference.
Their goal was to keep the volley going as long as they could, without the ball hitting the ground. When my wife and I play tennis together, our approach is to keep the volley going as long as we can. The enjoyment grows with the longevity of the volley. It is counterproductive to have someone miss their shot. It stops the flow. Keeping the flow going by playing better is more rewarding than winning a point.
When the goal is to keep the ball in play and the volley going, players play to each other’s strength, rather than exploit the other player’s weakness. It’s a collaboration. Otherwise, there would be shorter volleys, we wouldn’t enjoy it as much or get as much out of it.
Most competitive sports are about winning, to a ridiculously clichéd level. “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” Vince Lombardi was quoted as saying. The notion of winning at all costs is frequently pursued in sports, even if it results in serious collateral damage to a player or a team’s future. Witness the recent “bounty rewards” that the New Orleans Saints used to encourage players to “take out” key players on other teams. And what does that do to the sheer joy of just playing the sport?
I’ve always loved playing basketball. Winning was something that helped determine the direction or limits of the game and where it would go – an eventual stopping point. But most of us played because we loved it so much; we didn’t really care who won. It was more about the quality and level of play than the outcome. In fact, if a game ended in a lopsided result, we’d change the teams to make it more even and play again, so we’d have a better game.
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Michael A. Zeytoonian is the Founding Member and Director of Dispute Resolution Counsel, LLC and is a lawyer, mediator and ombudsman. He is formerly a partner and now Of Counsel at Hutchings, Barsamian, Mandelcorn & Zeytoonian, LLP, in Wellesley Hills, MA. He specializes in employment law, business law, special education law, mediation, collaborative law and administrative law. He is admitted to practice in the state and federal district courts of Massachusetts and New York (Southern District) and the state of Connecticut. He has served as a mediator on the MWI panel in the district courts and on the BBA panel in the Boston Municipal Court.
He is a member and Massachusetts Bar Association and is chair of the MBA’s ADR committee and a member of the labor/employment section. He is a Past President (2006-2007) and member of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the New England Association for Conflict Resolution. He writes frequently on collaborative law and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and has trained lawyers and presented in collaborative law and ADR around the U.S., Canada and Ireland. He has lectured at Northeastern University School of Law, Suffolk University School of Law, New England Law Boston, UMASS School of Law and Roger Williams University School of Law.
He served as Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, as a deputy overseeing litigation in the State Counsel Bureau in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties and working on consumer advocacy cases. Prior to his work at the Attorney General’s Office, he was an Assistant County Attorney in the Westchester County (NY) Law Department, in the litigation and family court bureaus. His litigation work at both the County Law Department and the Attorney General’s office included cases in employment; labor; state, county and local municipal matters; environmental law; construction, administrative and tort law, and the prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases. His undergraduate education was at Boston College and Iona College, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree is history and education. He earned his J. D. from Pace University School of Law with a Certificate in Environmental Law in 1990.