Last week, we dug into some good reasons as to why you should participate recreational sports this summer in Chicago. Now that you've all hopefully gone out and joined a league or two and come up with a funny name for all your teams, let's talk about how how to conduct yourselves on the field, court or whatever surface you happen to find yourself playing on.
Show up to your games: Chronically absent team members are the must frustrating part of rec leagues. Over the course of the season, it's fine to miss one or two games. But when you continuously fail to show up for your games it hinders your roster, especially if you have a smaller team and run the risk of forfeiting games, which isn't fair to your teammates. Failing to come to your games also sucks for you personally because that means you wasted money paying a fee for a league you never play in.
Try your best: A lack of skill or talent in sports shouldn't deter you from joining a rec league, especially since there are leagues set up for people who are beginners or novice-level players. Nobody will make fun of you or get angry over your results as long as you give an effort. However, this doesn't excuse you from not paying attention, quitting when you don't feel like it or general lackadaisical play. In these leagues, winning isn't necessarily everything, but you at least owe it to your teammates and yourself to give it your best effort.
Tone down the intensity a level or two: Having said my piece about effort and trying your best, you have to remember you're playing in a league that emphasizes sociability and having fun over results. You're not a professional athlete, and, with the exception of certain higher-level leagues, everyone's there to have a good time and play a game they enjoy. Don't yell at teammates about their performance, don't lose your temper if something doesn't go your way and for God's sake don't play with unnecessary aggression that causes people to get hurt. There are no pro scouts watching you, and if they saw you act like this they would all say you're a jackass.
Don't argue with referees: In all likelihood, the refs at your games are just doing this job in their spare time to make themselves a few extra bucks on the side. The refs are not conspiring against your team, nor did they rig the games for gambling purposes. If you have an Ozzie Guillen-style meltdown in front of them over a call they made in a no-stakes rec league game, you'll only make an ass out of yourself and probably get kicked out of the league.
A little buzz beforehand is okay, but don't overdo it: A lot of leagues and teams are sponsored by bars that offer teams special deals on game nights. Since we're all responsible adults (allegedly) playing some games for fun, it's okay to have a drink or two before your game to enhance your enjoyment. But if you show up totally blitzed and incapable of playing, you and your team run the risk of forfeiting your game and other possible consequences, in addition to just embarrassing yourself. If you want to get totally hammered, save it for after the game when you celebrate your hard-earned victory (or loss).