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This week, i have been mostly playing hockey* and jazz**. Its a priveledge in both cases. And the other morning, whilst meditating on possible long corner routines to try at training on tuesday night it struck me that, perhaps contrary to first impressions, there are some real similarities between these my two main recreational activities of choice***:

Both are team games. Sure, you can play Jazz on your own, but really, what’s the point?
Both require and reward practice geared towards performance
Both are a delicate blend of individual skill and collaborative effort.
Both form character, teach you about yourself and the wider world, expand your horizons.
Both feel unbelievably good when they go well.

And in both cases, its easy for me sometimes to feel a bit insecure. Insecurity lurks for me even in the things i love most, sometimes even with some of the people i love most. Insecurity is something i am learning to beat.

In hockey i’m not a natural, really. I didn’t play much as a kid, I don’t have a lot of pace. I’m what people refer to as a player who can “come in and do a job”. In other words, its graft, not guile. Its unglamorous. I try not to make mistakes, try to play the percentages, try to be solid. I don’t always make the first team.

In Jazz, i’m the non-musical musician. I like to say i just hit things. I didn’t play much as a kid (jazz, i mean. I started learning drums when i was about 10). I try not to make mistakes. There’s been times when i’ve thought bands would have been better off without me. I hate the very idea of solos – insecurity on insecurity. Sometimes, in a hockey match, when things aren’t going well, i actively don’t want the responsibility of being passed the ball.

But Jazz is a team game, and so is hockey, and i’m grateful for the people who have been team-mates – who have trained and played with me, who have encouraged me, who have shared good and bad performances with me. Every team needs a guy who will try to be solid, who will try to keep the beat. Every team has one or two solo-ists who can thrive on that structure, whose skill and knowledge can draw the best out of the rest and drag the collective performance up a notch or two. And with the right encouragement, insecurity is an enemy i can beat.

Right now i am playing for the first team. And i’m playing with an excellent band. Last weekend, i helped set up the winning goal. And then the next day we had our best jam session yet.

Both feel unbelievably good when they go well.

And i’m grateful when things go well. I’m excited when things go well. I’m all eager to find out what happens next.

Today is the big match. Not just cos its today’s match (you always want to be excited, whenever possible in life, about what is happening right now), but also cos today’s match is against the medics. Just like in music there’s the big gig you look forward to – a venue you love to play, an album launch, a really good line-up you’re honoured to be part of; Sport, too, throws up the event that means that little bit more. The medics are Sunderland to our Newcastle, Madrid to our Barcelona. Its the match you look for when the fixture list comes out, the match you want to win more than any other, the one you can taste before you even get to the game – the one i can taste right now. I can’t wait. I’ll let you know how it goes.

*proper hockey, that is – with a ball, on astroturf. Not the Dancing on Ice version they play over in the New World.

** Proper Jazz: Billie Holliday, Fats Domino, Billy Stewart’s version of Summertime. All that Jazz.

*** If you don’t count reading and the occasional splurge of creativity with words on here, that is, and i dont, because they almost feel more like necessary bodily functions than a choice of leisure time activity.


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