The psychology of the poolside.jpg

The psychology of the poolside

By Sheila Mulvenney [email protected]

British resident Sheila Mulvenney owns a home in the Algarve. She and her partner Dave spent a lovely Easter break in the region and were due to fly back to the UK on April 15. They were caught up in the Icelandic volcanic ash problems that crippled European airspace for several weeks. She has since been back in the region for a trouble-free summer break.

We have been enjoying summers at our home in the Algarve for the last 10 years and over that time have had numerous assorted groups of family and friends staying at the house with us.

One of the activities we always enjoy with our visitors is volleyball in our pool. Teams range from two to six per side and we have over the years adapted the ‘rules’ to make it fun for assorted ages and abilities.

While not exactly compulsory (provided you play, you eat and continue your stay), we find most folk more than ready to join in.

One of the things I have noticed over the years, as a participant/ observer, is that the approach to volleyball often seems to mirror one’s approach to life.

There are those who I affectionately call the thrashers. Often, but not exclusively male, the competition, and more specifically winning, is the important thing for them.  Each shot takes on monumental importance and if an injury or ‘dunking’ occurs or a small child’s wellbeing is threatened in any way, even that of their own small child, well that is simply the price of winning the point, a kind of collateral damage.

Then there are the posers. They do take part but the game is incidental to looking cool. The way their bikini looks, their hairstyle (traumatic for them if it gets too wet and of course there are no mirrors in the pool), their makeup (and it is a universal truth known to all women that there is no waterproof mascara or eye makeup which is actually waterproof) all assume far more importance than the game.

These folk don’t really want to play at all but, of course, if they don’t, they may go unnoticed, the thought of which, though not the reality, is worse than getting their hairstyle or makeup soaked.

The splashers (the name says it all really) look really committed, like those who make a lot of noise at a meeting.

They dive exuberantly for every shot, most annoyingly those that were going ‘out’ anyway, but post-game analysis reveals that not a lot, save splashing, actually happened because of them.

It can be a humorous subsidiary spectator sport to place them beside the ‘posers’, I challenge any poser to maintain even a modicum of decorum if placed next to a ‘splasher’.

One of the groups I like best are the mediators. They love the game, for them taking part is important, but it is far more important that everyone is having a good time and being involved.

If a dispute should occur, perish the thought, they will be calming the troubled waters of our pool and issuing copious ‘sorrys’, even for those things which were not at all their  responsibility. 

Perhaps I identify most strongly with the group I call the ‘butterflies’.

They are fun-loving and enthusiastic but the finer points of game strategy, the rules and even the importance of winning, evade them.

After 10 years of playing this blooming game, my attention is just as likely to be drawn to a passing dragonfly, a friend’s new previously unnoticed bikini, or pretty much any other incidental happening.

Cries of ‘are you ready’ with a hint of irritation bounce around the pool as often as the ball. But of course I, and any other ‘butterflies’, remain impervious to these and always assume that someone else is the focus of the comment.

For me, another summer in the Algarve has drawn to a close and I will take home another suitcase of fond memories of fun times here.

The whole point of games is fun, surely, so I am never upset at the outcome, unless it is a males against females game then my family swear blind a personality transplant takes place as I launch into a full scale gender war.

Perhaps I can get some therapy? Maybe next year?