My workplace has always been a funny place with funny people; for example we used to go for a beer once a week, spent some weekends all together, and so on.

That all changed when my HR rep wanted to organize a soccer match. I had been a semi-pro for some years, and could have been a pro but for a big knee injury, so I told him that I could be really over-skilled for them. He answered that that was okay, just play and have fun.

During the match I was friendly as usual, except for the fact I have a "brazilian" method of play, which is basically a lot of dribbling, sometimes fast and sometimes spectacular. It does not involve roughness.

After the game all of the office changed their mood with me; they usually go out and spend their time together, just without me.

How can I move beyond this situation? My work is still good and I want to stay there. I do not want to change my workplace.

  • 45
    @anon I suggest changing the question then. no-one is excluding you because you're good. They are excluding you because of your playstyle. and is it a valid reason to exclude you because of the way you play? in my opinion, yes.
    – Migz
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 9:18
  • 91
    You say '"brazilian" method of play, which is basically a lot of dribbling'. I'm reading that as 'you hogged the ball, dribbling it from one end of the field to the other, seldom or never passing it to another team member'. Am I correct, and if so, can you see the problem?
    – brhans
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 12:35
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    "Just to clarify, i have my style of play, and i CAN'T change in any way." This attitude is why you're being excluded. It's not that you can't change your style of play. It's that you refuse to. If you won't adjust your play style to fit with what your colleagues find acceptable for a casual match, then you must accept that you're not going to play soccer with your colleagues. If you want to be included in other activities, you should probably apologize. If you want to be included in casual soccer matches, then modify your playing style.
    – Dr. Funk
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:05
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 4:47
  • 54
    Show your skill passing the ball to your colleagues really well. Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 8:25

5 Answers 5


So, you played a game of football and were a bit too skillful for your colleagues liking during the game. First things first, you need to do some apologising.

Some other things to consider, even if you were of a different skill level, did you use this opportunity to show off? Several of your colleagues could have mistaken your skill level to be showing them up and embarrassing them. That doesn't work well with most people.

Although you made it clear that you felt you were a different skill level, I don't think they realised how much of a difference this would make. I would suggest that you make some peace by offering to buy a round of drinks, get some food in, some basic bribery and a big show of an apology.

You may find the apology won't work straight away, however over time, people will forget or forgive and allow you to join in again. Time is a great healer of all wounds.

Now for the last bit, you say you can't change your play of style? Then don't play, I'm afraid they don't agree with it and they feel it's too much, football with your colleagues will not work unless you can find a way to tone down your play style.

In the end, it's best if you can learn a bit of control for future, saying you can't change your style is a bit of a bad reputation on your behalf as it means you are unable to control certain aspects of your personality. Until you learn that self control, stay away from sports where you could show your colleagues up too much.

  • 28
    I agree with the advice not to play if you cannot change your style. My aunt was a very good bridge player. She flatly refused to participate in family bridge games, because she felt she could not change her style of play enough to fit in. Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 10:30
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    It sounds like you are hogging the ball, meaning, you keep the ball to yourself and don't pass it to other teammates. How hard would it be to just pass it instead of always taking it down the field yourself? No one likes a ball hog. Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 13:10
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    @HopefullyHelpful the answer says apologize first. If you treat the wound, time will heal it. If you leave it open, it will indeed continue to fester.
    – Erik
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 14:16
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    @TheSexyMenhir "I'm sorry I hogged the ball and didn't share" is a possibility.
    – user5621
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 15:58
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    @Dr.Funk Um, no, that apology sounds really bad. It highlights their own skill, which (according to the post anyway) seems to be very central element in the problem.
    – hyde
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 5:35

You have an advantage - so you should have given yourself a disadvantage, like playing the position you are worst at, e.g. goalkeeper. If you know that you cannot control yourself, you need to remove yourself from the game and participate in another way by being the referee or coach (assuming you don't get carried away in these roles as well).

To get back on track, you need to apologize - say you're sorry, that you tend to get carried away, but would like to participate in another capacity in the future.

The problem with your football style is that it is very individual-oriented, which obviously does not go down well in an informal group activity.

Extra edit:

You also need to realize that the problem was not that you were so much better than everyone else at a sport - but that the activity itself was group-oriented. Had you all gone to shoot with bows and arrows, it would be no problem if you were world champion - because you would be able to display your skill without (slightly) humiliating others.

  • 3
    A competitive style of play would make it hard to just tone it down, so putting yourself in a position where you can't easily overdo it is probably best (+1)
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 13:21
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    Yes, this is one of the better answers here. Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 20:07
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    More importantly, one archer being much better than the others would not prevent others from firing their arrows. One football player being very good at dribbling could keep anyone else on the field from doing anything other than watch. Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 16:40
  • Excellent analogy, a single world class archer "wins", but allows the others to vie for second place with no (or very little) hard feeling. Someone who plays as a one-man-team ruins the game for the rest of the team. Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 17:11

During the match I have always been friendly as usual, except for the fact I have a "Brazilian" method of play.

I think this is the key sentence!
You know you are a good soccer player, and way better than your colleagues, and as far as I understood your colleagues might know this in advance.
So playing your "Brazilian method of play" probably ended in humiliating and exposing your colleagues in the context of soccer, and on top it's a very arrogant style of playing.

The purpose of this soccer match was mainly having fun and maybe to improve team building, with the fact that both sides treat everyone (including your opponents) with respect and everyone has fun.
It seems that, due to your playstyle, you made your colleagues feel very uncomfortable, most likely because of the things above. If so, now your colleagues are mad at you, because you didn't treat them with respect and exposed them, maybe even in front of your whole company.
Due to the fact you didn't want to change your playstyle, which means you didn't want to adapt yourself to the whole situation.

You should talk to your colleagues and apologize for what happened and tell them you played too competitively and you were too focused on your playstyle, so you didn't recognize it was too much.

It's a key soft-skill to evaluate a situation and adapt your behavior to it. It wasn't a competitive soccer game, where you had to show off your skills and play as good as possible.

  • 1
    Why is it an arrogant style?
    – SpongeBob
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 15:36
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    @Fernando "lots of dribbling" and "sometimes spectacular" indicates that his style of play is that of a show-off and a ball-hog. In the context of an amateur pick-up game that is meant to be "just for fun", this kind of behavior is going to be seen as arrogant and inappropriate. It is rude to go out of your way to dominate your less-skilled friends or colleagues in a casual game.
    – Dr. Funk
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 15:56
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    @Dr.Funk thanks, that's pretty the same what's on my mind. Furthermore being beaten by a good dribling or trick is always embarrassing for the other player. For example being nut-megged is pretty "humiliating" in the context of soccer. Imagine you would be nut-megged in front of your colleagues several times or beaten by a rainbow flick or similar over and over again, that's definitely not necessary, and playing like this instead of just passing to another player is just simply arrogant. It's implying you don't need your team members, because you are simply better than your opponent.
    – Artery
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:05
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    Generally, if one is exceptionally skilled at a given sport, it is considered good sportsmanship to adjust one's level of effort to create a relatively balanced game, particularly in the context of a casual game among coworkers. A competitive league or tournament is a different story, although it is still possible to overdo it by trying to score, say, your 30th goal when the opponent still has 0.
    – Dr. Funk
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:13
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    If the OP were participating in a league, and his coworkers were always teammates of his and were competing against other teams, they would surely love to have a ringer on their side, and wouldn't have as much of a problem with the "sometimes spectacular" ankle-breaking clinics put on by the OP.
    – Dr. Funk
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:15

I clearly don't know what exactly happened, but based on your description my assumption is you spent the game taking the ball away from the other team, dribbling around everyone, and scoring goals. Your colleagues probably think you were acting like a showboating jerk. Your team probably feels this way because you hogged the ball, and the other team probably feels like you were running up the score for no reason. Like almost everyone else said if you want to repair this relationship you should apologize.

However it doesn't seem to me like you realize why you should apologize. If you don't understand their point of view and how you should have handled the situation better any apology is going to sound contrived and may reinforce their belief that you're a jerk.

For example this isn't productive: "I'm sorry that you feel bad about how I acted during the soccer game. I told HR that I was really good and would ruin the game. Guess I was right..."

In my opinion you should have used your skills to enhance the game, instead of dominate it. I know hockey is a different sport but I don't know soccer well enough to pick out a good example. Wayne Gretzky was the greatest for lots of reasons, but I think it is germane that under "Style of Play" in his Wikipedia article they list this quote from Sports Illustrated:

Hall of Fame defense man Bobby Orr said of Gretzky, "He passes better than anybody I've ever seen."

He was a great shot but his passing set him apart. He owed much of his greatness to his ability to uplift his teammates (also from Wikipedia).

Gretzky made his opponents compete with five players, not one, and he made his teammates full partners to the game.

If you wanted to prove your greatness then you should have done it by uplifting everyone. Once you proved you were a threat then the opposition would have mobbed you. Instead of dancing around them all and making them look like fools you should have sent perfect passes to your teammates so they could be the hero and score. Same bit on defense you should have played zone defense and been a wall for any individual player. Even though you would prevent their forward progress still let them pass the ball away to their teammate. That way opposing players have a chance to have fun too. Of course if the score is close then score some easy points to keep your team in the lead. This way you still show off your skills but you do it in a positive way that shows you want to make the team shine instead of focusing the spotlight squarely on you.

I think this kind of thinking will lead to a much better apology along the lines of: "Hey I'm really sorry for acting like a jerk out there on the field. If I had to do it over again I would use my skills to lift the team up instead of show off. My selfishness ruined the game, and I won't make that mistake again." As pointed out in the comments a great closing line would be to offer to buy the next round or two of drinks next time you all go out.

After I gave this apology I'd also make it a point to give specific praise to your colleagues whenever you get praised. When your boss says, "Great job doing XYZ" try to respond with something like "Thanks I think that turned out really well too. Janice really helped make it all possible by doing XYZ." This will show that you appreciate the contributions of others, and won't try to hog all the glory like you probably did on the soccer field.

  • 3
    "Hey I'm really sorry for acting like a jerk out there on the field. If I had to do it over again I would use my skills to lift the team up instead of show off. My selfishness ruined the game, and I won't make that mistake again.". You forgot to add "and the next beer is on me". Seriously: very good answer +1
    – WoJ
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 14:59
  • Of course if the score is close then score some easy points to keep your team in the lead. => Not even necessary. Enable your teammates to score, if they don't, they don't. Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 15:14
  • @MatthieuM. Yes ideally the OP shouldn't kick in any goals and enable his teammates to win the game. I think there is value though in the OP scoring a minority of the goals if that is the difference between his team winning or losing. I agree though that doing everything they can to boost up their teammates is more important though than whether their team wins. Everyone having fun is most important, but everyone having fun and your team winning is best IMO.
    – Erik
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 15:47
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    @WoJ Thank you for your praise. I agree that buying a round or two of drinks would be a great closer. :)
    – Erik
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 15:58

It sounds like they thought you were showing off and maybe ruined the game for them. You could apologise and explain that you didn't think anyone would have been offended by your greater skill.

Honestly, though, if it were me, then I wouldn't say anything at all and just get on with work. Ask yourself if you really want to spend your free time with people who will stop socialising with you just because you're better than them at football. If you get invited to a football game again, then just play goal keeper.

  • 2
    Second part is a good response. If you have a hobby in which you are so superior that you need to work to tone down your skill, do not play it with people who do not match that skill, or consider that an effort activity. Whether chess, music etc. The latter is less problematic because it is not competitive, but in a competitive game, pick fights with equal class. Frankly, I think the behaviour of your colleagues unfriendly. They could have at least told you that they are no match to you and to apologise for not suggesting you waste your time with them. I disagree that OP should apologise. Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 19:51
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    The best players are able to adjust play style to match the opponent, in tactic or in skill level. I could totally thump the kids I play with, we all know it, but I can choose to pass instead of shooting/dribbling, and I can choose to put the ball in a space knowing it's slow or close enough to be intercepted or blocked. The OP chose instead to be selfish and ostentatious. They're being disdained because they ignored the entire point, which is to play in a team. The coworkers didn't need to point out they weren't any match, OP knew and had told them he was that much better, and still chose it.
    – user53718
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 4:44
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    @CaptainEmacs You don't need to dumb yourself down - that's just one approach. All you need is to include others in the game. If you can't do that, don't play - that's just as valid. But a team game like soccer is exceedingly easy to play with people who are much worse than you are, while everyone still has fun. A chess player might give himself an disadvantage (say, discarding pieces). Or play multiple games at once. A tennis player might suggest playing one handed - using his less capable hand. Note that in both cases, everyone is challenged, and everyone has fun.
    – Luaan
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 15:04
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    @CaptainEmacs: well, everybody differs in his approach to sport. I have fun playing at a way lower level than I normally play (volleyball) just for the fun when other people are having fun too. It is so much more relaxed when you can can be the kind player who simply enables the others do the heroic part (spiking, scoring a goal). Everyone knows that I am better then them, no need to show it off. My skills are then used so that the others can have fun (which was the intent of the game in OPs case)
    – WoJ
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 15:06
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    @CaptainEmacs I doubt the purpose of the soccer game was to show everyone how dominate the OP is in soccer. Since the OP didn't understand the purpose of the event and behaved contrary to the event's probable purpose of team building the OP is receiving fallout as a result. That is the fundamental issue here. It is not whether or not strong players should always act like average players.
    – Erik
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 18:55

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