“Now, a few things about home field advantage,” Cory says.
He’s started to cool off after his fit. I guess I know my place now. No Cory questions. Only game questions. Focus on the material. I want to show him I’m paying attention.
“I thought we were talking about playgrounds,” I say. “Doesn’t everybody have a right to the playground?”
“True, if it’s your school or your neighborhood, then it’s your home field. But competition on the playground gets complicated. A lot of kids can say it’s my school or neighborhood. So you gotta sort it out. I bet you’ve heard the next two rules so many times you forgot how important they were: Show up first. Winner stays.”
It’s so obvious, I’m thinking, oh duh. Cory continues.
“Why do you think kids run to the field at recess. If you can’t get there first, then only by waiting your turn and winning do you get to control the next game. Repeat after me: Show up first, winner stays.”
I repeat it. He says to do it again, so I repeat it again.
“OK, I get it,” I say, as a follow up. “Possession and control. You take the field first or by winning.”
“Nice. You’re thinking. But you walked right into these lessons with me with no defense and no offense. You just set yourself up for whatever. You’re lucky I’m a nice guy or I could have beat you up and locked you in a storage closet in the back of the library. But I wouldn’t have done that, because you had the guts to confront me in the first place. So I owe you as much teaching as you can handle.
“You came here to gain something, right? You didn’t feel threatened. Think about kids. You don’t have to force a kid to play, but you might have to compel a kid to compete. They either see fun or a threat.
“Competitiveness is like a sixth sense, either you learn it early from your family and friends and then improve it as you go, or you have to be compelled by some force, like money, pride or respect.
“Home field advantage is part of your competitive edge, but it’s all in your mind. If you control your mind, you can control the game.
“In some sports, home field advantage is about who plays the most games at home in a series. In some it’s about your facilities and your fans. But take baseball for example, the home team gives the visitors the first at bat. The advantage is in the rules, and your attitude. If you’re playing to win you’ll always feel like you have home field advantage.
“Once you have the advantage, you have to study your competition and, again, know your strengths: hit them where it hurts, test the defense, challenge the offense, wait until your opponents reveal their strategy before you make your move.
“If you know when and where you’re going to play, you’ll be able to prepare yourself and your team for a win. If someone pushes a game on you when you’re not ready, you might be off your game and embarrass yourself.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as going to the empty part of the field, like hitting a double into a gap in the outfield, or driving for a layup on the weak side of the court. In dodge ball, it’s about knowing where your opponent is looking and catching him off guard, forcing him into a mistake.”
“I see,” I respond. I’m starting to wonder if he’s going to keep me in the library all day. Now I’m eager get out on the playground and test what I’ve learned.