For years I ran a mens league basketball team. Running a team for what is essentially a beer league can be surprisingly difficult (it’s also a thankless job).
At first glance it seems simple:
Find some guys who like basketball, get them together and make a team.
Right? Well, unfortunately there’s a bit more to it than that.
See, there are a lot of different facets to basketball.
At the simplest level, basketball has offence and defense. With those areas, there are a number of different skills that make them up.
For example, on offence you have shooting (from different areas), post play, ball handling, setting screens, court vision, etc.
On the defensive end of the court you need to a type of awareness that allows you to anticipate and react to an opponent. Some of the “skills” on the defense include boxing out, rebounding, blocking shots and stealing the ball.
If you make a checklist of all the different skills that make up a basketball player, very few people check all boxes. Generally some people are skilled in some areas, but not in others. So when building a team you need to find a balance of skills and abilities with the different members of the team.
When building a team I look for a mix of players that bring different skills to the table. Players who complement each other, in order to maximize strengths and hide weaknesses.
And that’s just the basketball side of things.
That checklist lists the skills and abilities that make up a “good” basketball player. But basketball is a team sport.
To be a good teammate, someone had to be unselfish. They also had to be reliable, have a positive attitude, and be able to deal with adversity. It’s easy to be positive when things are going well, but it’s really important that guys stick together and not point fingers when times are tough.
Oh yeah, being able to pay was pretty important too. As the guy who had to collect from others and pay the bills, it really sucked when fees were due and someone only had $20, and would get me “next time”.
Over many years of playing and trying to build a team, I found that the “team” skills were MUCH more important than the actual basketball ones.
Someone could be an amazing basketball player, but if they weren’t also a good teammate then it was not worth having them on the team.
When building a basketball team, “basketball” was only a small part of the equation. A team is much more than just a collection of individuals.
Building the “Perfect” Partner
When meeting a potential partner, what are some things you look for? Just as there are many characteristics and traits that make up an ideal basketball player, there are also many traits people look for in a partner.
Because a relationship only involves two people (unless you are into bigamy, which is frowned upon in most parts of the world), it’s a lot harder to find a balance.
An additional complication is that the traits that are important to you may change over time.
Think about early relationships, when you are around 17-22 years of age. At that stage, most people are probably looking for someone they find attractive that they can hang out and do things with. At this point a similar sex drive is probably the most important trait.
But while hanging out and having a regular partner for sex may seem great at the time, it doesn’t really make for much of a relationship. In fact, some people actually differentiate between what they feel is acceptable in someone they will just “date” vs someone who is “marriage material”.
If you are looking for a long term relationships (with the possibility of marriage) then there are other characteristics that become very important. Commitment, loyalty and a shared vision of the future are a lot more important than just hanging out with someone who you find attractive.
And if you are at a stage that you hope to have kids, stability and responsibility are also very important.
The “Non-Relationship” Stuff
When you first meet someone there may be characteristics that you notice, and those may or may not stay important over the life of the relationship.
But those traits are only a small part of the traits that matter over time.
Self-confidence, motivation, the ability to hold a job, handle criticism and handle stress are a few things that come to mind. These aren’t things you necessarily think of when looking for a partner, but at the same time they all have a significant impact on the success of relationships.
Times won’t always be good, and they won’t always be easy.
Sometimes relationships seem to go well for years, and then *something* changes and things fall apart.
What happens then times get hard?
Does someone start to retreat into doing what is best for them? Do they start blaming the other person for any problems the relationship is facing? Do they ignore the problems and pretend they aren’t there?
Or do they try to work together, and find ways to move forward that may not be perfect for either person, but attempt to find a balance that works for both?
I believe empathy is the key.
With empathy there is both give and take. There is a recognition that although each individual is important, sometimes the couple needs to come first.
Kind of like my experiences with basketball, you find that all the wonderful characteristics and traits in the world don’t matter if someone can’t embrace the concept of team.
The Perfect Partner
So what does the “perfect” partner look like? There’s really no right answer here, and even for a single person it depends on where you are in life and what your priorities are at that time.
But there is no such thing as a perfect person. Each are different, and no one “has it all”. Well, maybe some people do. But if so, those people are like unicorns and Sasquatch.
Accepting that people aren’t perfect is not about lowering standards. It’s re-evaluating priorities.
Each of us has a different “skill set”, and the mark of a successful couple probably depends on how well they are able to accept each other for who they are, and find ways to make those skills work together.
What matters isn’t what’s perfect, it’s what’s perfect for you.