Last night I played a game of hockey against an all girls team. I had a bad feeling when I walked into my locker room and the captain announced that we were going to "take it easy" tonight. Three passes in the zone, no break aways and all that stuff. I was truly aghast and then I heard it was due to us playing an all girls team.
I totally disagree with the philosophy that you play a different game depending on your perception of the competition, unless it is to change the game up in order to win or play better. Dumbing down our game is insulting, not what I signed up for, doesn't do anything but fuel misogynistic tendencies and frankly, makes the other team worse. Will you play as hard as you can if you recognize that the other guy (gal) is just screwing around? Nope.
So, I played hard. I gave my best efforts against the team I played with, and they played hard. The goalie (my buddy) taught them how to check a huge guy and get away with it. He applied his stick in places that he shouldn't have. I ended up getting boarded (hard) by someone that was a foot shorter and 100 Lbs smaller. Good for her. I had a ball and I was a human pinball. (Another point, what ref is going to call boarding on some one I could bench press?) They had a break away on me because I over skated and lost the puck. If I was taking it easy, they never would have had the break away.
It was hockey, they played hard and I honored them by playing my best. There is no shame in defeat. There is only shame in not playing or trying. Play your best game. Always. You can teach and you can make them better players by playing a good clean game and playing it honestly. I think that is life too. People raise to the level of expectation and to their level of desire.
This seems so clear and so simple to me.