Dealing with Pickup Game Jerks

July 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

I play a lot of pickup basketball. Every once in a while, you come across a talented, proud, and often young player who lashes out at and blames teammates for every misfortune.

Everyone encounters pickup game jerks. Dealing with jerks is something we must all do, at one point or another.

A common response to dealing with jerks is “man up.”  “Manning up,” “standing your ground,” etc. is an effective tactic, but it is not at all natural and actionable for many. It’s like telling a fat person to “just eat less.” It’s like telling a smoker to “just quit.” Or telling a child molester to “just stop being a perv.” Simple to say when you’ve never lived their life.

Here’s a few actionable tips to help when facing a pickup game jerk. “Manning up” certainly is effective, but that’s not something you simply ‘switch on’ on a basketball court — that’s a life thing that must be addressed by digging deep inside and doing some drilling in the core.

1) Shake hands with all your teammates when joining the court. Call everyone by their first names. Ask for a favor, if possible (can you throw me a few passes?). Psychologically, asking for a favor makes someone trust you. Intuitively, this makes sense, as your mind hates internal contradictions: you can’t both hate someone and do them a favor.

2) Don’t say “my bad” over missed shots (this is the worst) or layups. Admit you’re wrong when you actually believe you’re wrong (bad passes, etc.).

3) There are generally two types of criticism: first, criticizing you for making a bad play, and second, criticizing you out of frustration. For the first, say if the jerk yells, “Man, what the hell!” after you turn the ball over, ignore it. Lead by example. Encourage your teammates after making mistakes. “Good take” is my favorite after a missed shot. Your teammates will gravitate towards you, not the jerk.

If he (let’s arbitrarily assume the jerk is male)  criticizes you out of frustration, be firm. Don’t apologize, don’t insist you’re right, and be calm.

“He’s yelling screen right, but he’s not helping on the screen!”

“Hey man, I can do that. Just talk to me. We can work together on this.”

4) Have fun. Criticizing a fun-loving, happy guy makes anyone seem like a jerk. It’s another internal contradiction: your brain feels uneasy criticizing someone it perceives as likable.

5) After the game, shake the jerk’s hand. Don’t practically put your hand next to his — make him reach out.

How do you deal with pickup game jerks? Do you ‘man up?’ Do you simply avoid them? I’d like to hear thoughts.

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