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Playing to Win
by Margaret A. Whitney

1 My daughter is an athlete. Nowadays, this statement won’t strike many parents as unusual, but it
does me. Until her freshman year in high school, Ann was only marginally interested in sport of any
kind. When she played, she didn’t swing hard, often dropped the ball, and had an annoying habit of
tittering on field or court.


2 Indifference combined with another factor that did not bode well for a sports career. Ann was
growing up to be beautiful. By eighth grade, nature and orthodontics had produced a 5-foot 8-inch
125-pound, brown-eyed beauty with a wonderful smile. People told her, too. And, as many young
women know, it is considered a satisfactory accomplishment to be pretty and stay pretty. Then you
can simply sit still and enjoy the unconditional positive regard. Ann loved the attention, too, and
didn’t consider it demeaning when she was awarded “Best Hair,” female category, in the eighthgrade
yearbook.


3 So it came as a surprise when she became a jock. The first indication that athletic indifference had
ended came when she joined the high school cross-country team. She signed up in early September
and ran third for the team within three days. Not only that. After one of those 3.1 mile races up hill
and down dale on a rainy November afternoon, Ann came home muddy and bedraggled. Her hair
was plastered to her head, and the mascara she had applied so carefully that morning ran in dark
circles under her eyes. This is it, I thought. Wait until Lady Astor1 sees herself. But the kid with the
best eighth grade hair went on to finish the season and subsequently letter2 in cross-country, soccer,
basketball, and softball.

4 I love sports, she tells anyone who will listen. So do I, though my midlife quest for a doctorate
leaves me little time for either playing or watching. My love of sports is bound up with the goals in
my life and my hopes for my three daughters. I have begun to hear the message of sports. It is very
different from many messages that women receive about living, and I think it is good.

5 My husband, for example, talked to Ann differently when he realized she was a serious competitor
and not just someone who wanted to get in shape so she’d look good in a prom dress. Be aggressive,
he’d advise. Go for the ball. Be intense.


6 Be intense. She came in for some of the most scathing criticism from her dad, when, during
basketball season, her intensity waned. You’re pretending to play hard, he said. You like it on the
bench? Do you like to watch while your teammates play?


7 I would think, how is this kid reacting to such advice? For years, she’d been told at home, at school,
by countless advertisements, “Be quiet, Be good, Be still.” When teachers reported that Ann was too
talkative, not obedient enough, too flighty. When I dressed her up in frilly dresses and told her not to
get dirty. When ideals of femininity are still, quiet, cool females in ads whose vacantness passes for
sophistication. How can any adolescent girl know what she’s up against? Have you ever really
noticed intensity? It is neither quiet nor good. And it’s definitely not pretty.
_______________
1 Lady Astor: wealthy socialite admired for her beauty
2 letter: athletic achievement award

8 In the end, her intensity revived. At half time, she’d look for her father, and he would come out of
the bleachers to discuss tough defense, finding the open player, squaring up on her jump shot. I’d
watch them at the edge of the court, a tall man and a tall girl, talking about how to play.

9 Of course, I’m particularly sensitive at this point in my life to messages about trying hard, being
active, getting better through individual and team effort. Ann, you could barely handle a basketball
two years ago. Now you’re bringing up the ball against the press. Two defenders are after you. You
must dribble, stop, pass. We’re depending on you. We need you to help us. I wonder if my own
paroxysms of uncertainty would be eased had more people urged me—be active, go for it!


10 Not that dangers don’t lurk for the females of her generation. I occasionally run this horror show in
my own mental movie theatre: an unctuous3 but handsome lawyer-like drone of a young man spies
my Ann. Hmmm, he says, unconsciously to himself, good gene pool, and wouldn’t she go well with
my BMW and condo? Then I see Ann with a great new hairdo kissing the drone goodbye-honey and
setting off to the nearest mall with splendid-looking children to spend money.

11 But the other night she came home from softball tryouts at six in the evening. The dark circles under
her eyes were from exhaustion, not makeup. I tried too hard today, she says. I feel like I’m going to
puke.


12 After she has revived, she explains. She wants to play a particular position. There is competition for
it. I can’t let anybody else get my spot, she says, I’ve got to prove that I can do it. Later we find out
that she has not gotten the much-wanted third-base position, but she will start with the varsity team.
My husband talks about the machinations of coaches and tells her to keep trying. You’re doing fine,
he says. She gets that I-am-going-to-keep-trying look on her face. The horror show vision of Annas-
Stepford-Wife4 fades.


13 Of course, Ann doesn’t realize the changes she has wrought, the power of her self-definition. I’m an
athlete, Ma, she tells me when I suggest participation in the school play or the yearbook. But she has
really caused us all to rethink our views of existence: her younger sisters who consider sports a
natural activity for females, her father whose advocacy of women has increased, and me. Because
when I doubt my own abilities, I say to myself, Get intense, Margaret. Do you like to sit on the
bench?

14 And my intensity revives.

15 I am not suggesting that participation in sports is the answer for all young women. It is not easy—the
losing, the jealousy, raw competition, and intense personal criticism of performance.

16 And I don’t wish to imply that the sports scene is a morality play either. Girls’ sports can be funny.
You can’t forget that out on that field are a bunch of people who know the meaning of the word cute.
During one game I noticed that Ann had a blue ribbon tied on her ponytail, and it dawned on me that
every girl had an identical bow. Somehow I can’t picture the Celtics gathered in the locker room of
the Boston Garden agreeing to wear the same colour sweatbands.

_______________
3 unctuous: very smooth, fervent, or earnest, especially in a false or affected way when trying to please or persuade
4 Ann-as-Stepford-Wife: reference to a story by Ira Levin where women are replaced with more passive and beautiful replicas

17 No, what has struck me, amazed me, and made me hold my breath in wonder and in hope is both the
ideal of sport and the reality of a young girl not afraid to do her best.

18 I watch her bringing the ball up the court. We yell encouragement from the stands, though I know
she doesn’t hear us. Her face is red with exertion, and her body is concentrated on the task. She
dribbles, draws the defense to her, passes, runs. A teammate passes the ball to her. They’ve beaten
the press. She heads toward the hoop. Her father watches her, her sisters watch her, I watch her.
And I think, drive, Ann, drive.


Copyright © 2001 by the New York Times Co. Reprinted by permission. July 3, 1988.

There is a number next to each paragraph. Could you guys explain to me what's going on? I'm confused with the tenses. Sometimes she uses past tense to talk about her past happenings and then she switches over to present? She uese past tense, present tense, present perfect, etc. I don't get it. I'm lost. I don't follow the story. It's so frustrating to read. What is the point of doing that?

The bold parts are used to show that I'm confused with the tenses/change of tenses.

I also noticed that the writer didn't use quotation marks for her reported speeches? I have italized them to make them stand out. Are they correct like that?

I'm very sorry if I have consumed of lot of your valuable time. Thank you very much in advance for taking your time to read this.
1 2
Comments  
Jack,

As I see it, the reason for the use of present & past tense in this story is:

The narrator (Margaret) is telling her story now, in the present.

"My daughter IS an athlete"

She then goes on to talk about the past

"Until her freshman year in high school, Ann WAS only marginally interested in sport"

Ann showed no interest in sport IN THE PAST, than suddenly became interested.

Persevere with the story, and identifying the tenses, as you are doing. This will help you identify when the events the narrator is speaking about took place.

Quotation marks:

This is simply a "literary device" - she choses not to use quotation marks perhaps to give an impression that this entire story is running through her mind. strictly speaking, quotation marks should be used, but sometimes writers omit punctuation for effect.
11 But the other night she came home from softball tryouts at six in the evening. The dark circles under
her eyes were from exhaustion, not makeup. I tried too hard today, she says. I feel like I’m going to
puke.

12 After she has revived, she explains. She wants to play a particular position. There is competition for
it. I can’t let anybody else get my spot, she says, I’ve got to prove that I can do it. Later we find out
that she has not gotten the much-wanted third-base position, but she will start with the varsity team.
My husband talks about the machinations of coaches and tells her to keep trying. You’re doing fine,
he says. She gets that I-am-going-to-keep-trying look on her face. The horror show vision of Annas-
Stepford-Wife4 fades.


Paragraphs 11+12, what is going on here? I don't get the use of tenses. What is the transition here? Can you explain that to me? In paragraph 11 she uses "I tried too hard today, she says". Why 'says' is not 'said'?

Paragraph 18, Why is it in present tense? She is actually playing ball right now? Or reliving the past with the use of present tense to make it feel like it's happening right now?
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I think you've got it precisely, Jack. The narrator is using the present tense to bring a sense of immediacy ("it's happening right now") to the story.

para 11 "I tried too hard today, she says." - the narrator is using the present tense to describes an action in the past (her daughter's comments) to bring the reader actively into the situation.

12 After she has revived, she explains. She wants to play a particular position - she uses the same device here

Later we find out that she has not gotten the much-wanted third-base position, but she WILL start with the varsity team.

Difficult mixture of tenses here:

"we find out" - present tense used to express something inthe past: the present tense can be used to talk about completed actions and events that happen as we are speaking. This is not actually the case here, as the narrator is speaking of the past, but she wishes us to come actively into the situation. The present simple is also used in informal narratives - which is what this is.

"she has not gotten" - simple present perfect used to express a finished event, or a moment up to now.

"she will play" - future, in relation to "she has not gotten"

I am telling you a story. I intend to tell it in the present tense, but sometimes I will use ( I haven't done it yet) the past tense to explain something which is over and done. then I might use the future aspect to explain things which follow on from something that acually happened in the past"

para 18. The narrator is re-living the experince and invites the readers to re-live it with her by speaking in the present tense. The events have already happened.
Okay thanks.

What about paragraph #16? Why doesn't she use present tense instead of past? How does she know what to use?

I have wrote something about this story. When you're writing about literature you should write in the present tense right? With this story, it has so many tenses. I don't know how to communicate my ideas.

Can you take a look at this, I think my tenses are incorrect but at the same time I don't know. She talks about her past experience in past tense but she also relives them in present, so should I change all my tenses to present or past? Or I need both where it is necessary? If so, could you show me?

Here it is:
1. In the story “Play to win,” Whitney’s daughter is marginally interested in sports. She isn’t good at games at first and she is beautiful. Not soon Whitney’s daughter becomes a jock, changes Whitney’s views on her and her experience influences her mother.

2. The first insight to Whitney’s daughter’s influence on her mother may be shown when she was in high school. Her daughter joined track in her eighth grade and she ran for miles and was soaked by the rain and it distorted her makeup. Her mother thinks that physical appearance doesn’t go along with her being an athlete. She thinks that she should be more feminine, and one should consider what others think about you, “Wait until Lady Astor sees herself”. Soon she realizes that this is not a concern for her anymore because she “..love sports..” just like how her daughters do.

3. Her daughter experiences a lot of hardship through sports and hard personal opinions that make her feel down and lose hope. When her daughter looks for help, she goes for her dad for advice. Her dad supports, motivates, and eases her. From that experience her mother thinks about the advices she could have gotten when she was young, maybe it would have move her towards something, “if my own paroxysms of uncertainly would be eased had more people urged me..”

4. When her daughter has revived she wants to play for a particular position and she can’t let anybody else get her spot. When she goes through times like these she seeks her dad for help. Her mother learns that when she goes through times like these “doubt my own abilities”, she says “Get intense” just like her daughter.

5. In the beginning Whitney didn’t get her hopes up for her. It’s all because of her daughter’s determination and dad’s support. That changes her views on her. Now she is being supportive for her. She takes sports seriously.


I don't understand how I should use my tenses. I'm totally lost. Could you correct my tenses if they are wrong or if they don't make any sense or if they are used inappropriately? And tell me why they are wrong. Thanks a bunch.
You are doing well, Jack.

"16. And I don’t wish to imply that the sports scene is a morality play either. Girls’ sports can be funny. You can’t forget that out on that field are a bunch of people who know the meaning of the word cute.

here the narrator is using the present tense because she is speaking of the present and here own feeling and opinions NOW."

During one game I noticed that Ann had a blue ribbon tied on her ponytail, and it dawned on me that every girl had an identical bow.

Now she uses the past tense because she is recollecting something that happened in the past.

"During one game I saw Ann play in the past, I noticed she wore a blue ribbon."

Somehow I can’t picture the Celtics gathered in the locker room of the Boston Garden agreeing to wear the same colour sweatbands.

She goes back to the present, because EVEN TODAY she can't imagine a men's team agreeing to wear the same colour sweatbands.

Now to your writing:

1. In the story “Play to win,” Whitney’s daughter is marginally interested in sports. She isn’t good at games at first and she is beautiful. Not soon Whitney’s daughter becomes a jock, changes Whitney’s views on her and her experience influences her mother.

*** As a girl, Whitney's vain and beautiful daughter is only marginally interested in sports. She often dropped the ball, she didn't hit the ball hard, and she spent most of the time giggling when she should have been playing. By the 8th grade she was a beautiful young woman, tall with lovely hair and a wonderful smile that had been improved with dental work.

2. The first insight to Whitney’s daughter’s influence on her mother may be shown when she was in high school. Her daughter joined track in her eighth grade and she ran for miles and was soaked by the rain and it distorted her makeup. Her mother thinks that physical appearance doesn’t go along with her being an athlete. She thinks that she should be more feminine, and one should consider what others think about you, “Wait until Lady Astor sees herself”. Soon she realizes that this is not a concern for her anymore because she “..love sports..” just like how her daughters do.

When she became a freshman (about 18, I think - 1st year at college) she suddenly developed an interest in sports, particularly running. Whitney thought it wouldn't last, particularly after her daughter came home on day with her mascara running and covered in mud. She compared Ann to Lady Astor, and thought that vanity would triumph. But she was wrong; the young girl who was voted as having "best hair" in 8th grade forgot her vanity, and didn't care about being dirty and covered in mud.

Whitney loves sports herself, but she has other things to think about; she is studying for a doctorate, and she has three daughters to worry about. But through Ann, she begins to develop a new awareness, and sees how differently people treat a woman who is good at sport. For example, Ann's father sees that she is not just interested in getting into shape to look good, but to achieve a sporting goal, and he encourages her. But at the same time he can be hard on her, telling her to play hard and be agressive - (which he would not to to a daughter if she were not interested in sport). Whitney remebers dressing Ann in frilly "feminine" dresses, and thinks about ads. which portray young women as vacant (unthinking) and quiet. How different from Ann now!

She sees her husband and daughter talking about sport, and realises how alike they are.

3. Her daughter experiences a lot of hardship through sports and hard personal opinions that make her feel down and lose hope. When her daughter looks for help, she goes for her dad for advice. Her dad supports, motivates, and eases her. From that experience her mother thinks about the advices she could have gotten when she was young, maybe it would have move her towards something, “if my own paroxysms of uncertainly would be eased had more people urged me..”

Whitney is experiencing her own period of uncertainty - she is no longer a young girl, she has family and study responsibilities. She looks at her daughter, and thinks of the advice she recieved as a young girl; would she have been different if she had received the encouragement Ann is getting? Would she have had more self-confidence?

12 After she has revived, she explains. She wants to play a particular position. There is competition for it. I can’t let anybody else get my spot, she says, I’ve got to prove that I can do it. Later we find out that she has not gotten the much-wanted third-base position, but she will start with the varsity team. My husband talks about the machinations of coaches and tells her to keep trying. You’re doing fine, he says. She gets that I-am-going-to-keep-trying look on her face. The horror show vision of Annas- Stepford-Wife4 fades.

In this paragraph - although Ann doesn't get the position she really wanted, she won't give up and is determined to keep trying, showing that she's going to be an independent and strong woman, not just a "stepford wife"

5. In the beginning Whitney didn’t get her hopes up for her. It’s all because of her daughter’s determination and dad’s support. That changes her views on her. Now she is being supportive for her. She takes sports seriously.

Whitney realises that Ann takes her sport seriously, and that her determination in sport will shape her life. Ann's success is much more than success at sport - it is success in life.
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Thank you very much Abbie.

I still have some trouble with the tenses. I still don't understand how to talk about a story, how to communicate my ideas. Should I use present or past? When the author talks about Ann's life in the past, the author uses past and present. When the author uses past, should I write in the past too? Or should I change it to present? When the author writes in the present (to make you relive the events) about Ann, should I use present too? Or should I use the past? I'm frustrated. Emotion: sad

Now to your writing:

1. In the story “Play to win,” Whitney’s daughter is marginally interested in sports. She isn’t good at games at first and she is beautiful. Not soon Whitney’s daughter becomes a jock, changes Whitney’s views on her and her experience influences her mother.
(So my tenses are incorrect here? They should be all past?)

*** As a girl, Whitney's vain and beautiful daughter is only marginally interested in sports. She often dropped the ball, she didn't hit the ball hard, and she spent most of the time giggling when she should have been playing. By the 8th grade she was a beautiful young woman, tall with lovely hair and a wonderful smile that had been improved with dental work. (Is ‘is’ supposed to be ‘was’? If not, why? I am talking about her when she was/is young? <---For this question should I use ‘was’ or ‘is’ ? Why? Then I shifted to past tense ‘dropped’ ? )

2. The first insight to Whitney’s daughter’s influence on her mother may be shown when she was in high school. Her daughter joined track in her eighth grade and she ran for miles and was soaked by the rain and it distorted her makeup. Her mother thinks that physical appearance doesn’t go along with her being an athlete. She thinks that she should be more feminine, and one should consider what others think about you, “Wait until Lady Astor sees herself”. Soon she realizes that this is not a concern for her anymore because she “..love sports..” just like how her daughters do.

When she became a freshman (about 18, I think - 1st year at college) she suddenly developed an interest in sports, particularly running. Whitney thought it wouldn't last, particularly after her daughter came home on day with her mascara running and covered in mud. She compared Ann to Lady Astor, and thought that vanity would triumph. But she was wrong; the young girl who was voted as having "best hair" in 8th grade forgot her vanity, and didn't care about being dirty and covered in mud. (So when the author talks about events in the past and when I write about it, I don’t need to change my tense to the present unless I’m communicating my views about the author? Here you use past tense. I’m confused about this. Later on when you talk about ‘Ann’s father’ you use present tense? Why not past? )

Whitney loves sports herself, but she has other things to think about; she is studying for a doctorate, and she has three daughters to worry about. But through Ann, she begins to develop a new awareness, and sees how differently people treat a woman who is good at sport. For example, Ann's father sees that she is not just interested in getting into shape to look good, but to achieve a sporting goal, and he encourages her. But at the same time he can be hard on her, telling her to play hard and be agressive - (which he would not to to a daughter if she were not interested in sport). Whitney remebers dressing Ann in frilly "feminine" dresses, and thinks about ads. which portray young women as vacant (unthinking) and quiet. How different from Ann now! ( How come ‘sees’ is not ‘saw’ I’m asking this because in paragraph 5 (Whitney’s original story), Whitney talks about her father in the past? Or is it because I write in the present? If so, how come in paragraph 2 (Your edited version) you used past tense? This is what I’m confused about. )

She sees her husband and daughter talking about sport, and realises how alike they are.

3. Her daughter experiences a lot of hardship through sports and hard personal opinions that make her feel down and lose hope. When her daughter looks for help, she goes for her dad for advice. Her dad supports, motivates, and eases her. From that experience her mother thinks about the advices she could have gotten when she was young, maybe it would have move her towards something, “if my own paroxysms of uncertainly would be eased had more people urged me..” (For my paragraph #3, should ‘experiences’ be ‘experienced’? Should this whole passage be in past tense? Why? )

Whitney is experiencing her own period of uncertainty - she is no longer a young girl, she has family and study responsibilities. She looks at her daughter, and thinks of the advice she recieved as a young girl; would she have been different if she had received the encouragement Ann is getting? Would she have had more self-confidence?

12 After she has revived, she explains. She wants to play a particular position. There is competition for it. I can’t let anybody else get my spot, she says, I’ve got to prove that I can do it. Later we find out that she has not gotten the much-wanted third-base position, but she will start with the varsity team. My husband talks about the machinations of coaches and tells her to keep trying. You’re doing fine, he says. She gets that I-am-going-to-keep-trying look on her face. The horror show vision of Annas- Stepford-Wife4 fades. (Now you’re using present tense? To talk about Whitney’s daughter past experience? How come in paragraph 2 (your edited version) you didn’t use present? How do I know what tense to use?)

In this paragraph - although Ann doesn't get the position she really wanted, she won't give up and is determined to keep trying, showing that she's going to be an independent and strong woman, not just a "stepford wife" ( Why didn't you use 'wants' ? Why 'wanted' ?)

5. In the beginning Whitney didn’t get her hopes up for her. It’s all because of her daughter’s determination and dad’s support. That changes her views on her. Now she is being supportive for her. She takes sports seriously. (Let’s say I’m writing an essay here; if I use ‘doesn’t’ instead of ‘didn’t ‘ is it incorrect? Why?

Whitney realizes that Ann takes her sport seriously, and that her determination in sport will shape her life. Ann's success is much more than success at sport - it is success in life. (Why isn’t ‘realizes’ isn’t realized’?)

Thanks
Hell Jack,

Apologies - I think I've just complicated the issue for you.

The easiest thing to do is to use the simple past throughout, unless you are talking about something which is actually in the present e.g. "this piece is about ....."

The simple past is widely used for telling stories (Once upon a time there WAS a beautiful princess who LIVED in a castle ..."

It is also used for telling people about past events.

As the majority of this piece relates to the past, try to put everything into past simple:

12 After she REVIVED, she EXPLAINED that she WANTED to play a particular position. There WAS competition for it. "I can’t let anybody else get my spot" , she SAID "I’ve got to prove that I can do it." Later we FOUND out that she HAD not gotten the much-wanted third-base position, but she WOULD start with the varsity team. My husband TALKED about the machinations of coaches and TOLD her to keep trying. "You’re doing fine", he SAID. She GOT that "I-am-going-to-keep-trying" look on her face. The horror show vision of Annas- Stepford-Wife4 FADED.

I think you can see from the above para that it makes just as much (if not, from your point of view - more) sense in the simple past Emotion: smile
I think you can see from the above para that it makes just as much (if not, from your point of view - more) sense in the simple past


Even when I'm writing essays? This is okay?

But how come in your writing you jump from past to present tense from time to time?

So if I want to refer back to Ann, what tense am I suppose to use? In some paragraphs the author uses present and in some she uses past? How do I deal with this when I want to talk about a paragraph?
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