Ten middle school kids go to the park after school to play basketball. Like any group of children, some are better than others. Lucas and Devin are two of the best players in the neighborhood. Charlie is a notch below those two, but still a starter on the school team. The other seven kids vary in ability but none are standouts.
They shoot around for 10 or 15 minutes, chatting about TV shows, girls, and video games, before Lucas finally says, “Let’s start. I’ll make teams: Me, Devin, Charlie, Marcus, and Patrick.” Marcus and Patrick look at each other and smile. The five who were not called look at each other also, equally surprised but far less excited.
“Sounds good to me,” Devin says. “Me too,” adds Charlie.
Lucas says “ball in” and the game begins. His team dominates, as expected, but they don’t make new teams for the next game, or the one after that. Some other local kids show up and challenge the winners. On this beautiful spring afternoon, they play for hours.
Over the course of the day, the Lucas-Devin-Charlie trio wins more than it loses, but does lose a few. After the losses, the feelings are obvious: Lucas and his teammates are in shock, while the opposing players slap hands in celebration, discussing in detail specific plays that led to the victory.
After the wins though, the reactions are far less telling. The losing team certainly wishes it had won, but there’s no bickering among the teammates. But how does Lucas’s squad feel? It’s impossible for an outsider to know. You’d have to ask them.