Finite and Infinite Games

Finite and Infinite Games

My daughter played for the town trophy in girls basketball this weekend.

What impressed me – besides the team defense – was that one team played a finite game, the other’s game was infinite. I don’t know if anyone can take a lesson from 4/5 basketball, but hear me out.

Let’s call team one Finite. No offense, but they played to win the championship, and why wouldn’t they expect that, as they had not lost all season. They had never been behind. They practiced to win. They played games to win. The coach barked plays and defenses based on the scoreboard. They fouled to stop the clock and put girls on the line. The parents bought in and cheered based on point differential. Their Finite goal was to win the championship and destroy anything that came in their way.

I repeat, we are playing 4/5 girls basketball.

Team Infinite took a different approach. No one stood out at the beginning of the year. Their goal was to improve each practice and each game, learn teamwork and hustle, and listen to the coach. And the coach had the patience to work with them. A few defensive skills for the first timers (half the team). A few fun shooting drills. A few inbound plays under the basket. Values that would make them better, slowly, but continue past the season and into every game they played. For Infinity.

They met in the finals, which of course featured Team Finite from the winner’s bracket, and Team Infinity from the bottom, meaning they had to take a double header to win it all. It meant they would have to swallow hard when Finite raced to an early lead. It meant that they would have to chip away with defense, like their coach taught them. It meant they would have to keep their composure when they went ahead late, with a three point play. It meant they would have celebrate for a minute, and then to do it again in game two, ten minutes after winning game one.

You know how this turned out.

Team Finite’s season was done halfway through game two. Team Infinity is still playing.

I mentor two kids and several entrepreneurs. Similarities are coincidental.