Do team sports promote positive relationships?

The question of if sports foster positive relationships is a layered complexity that is dependent on each person’s individual experience.

by Caroline Hinkebein, Sports Editor

Sports have always been an integral American pastime. As sports have evolved for more modern times, they ultimately can affect our relationships. How do we know if team sports cultivate positive or negative relationships? The Dart staff is divided.

Team sports can be beneficial in creating connections that might have been impossible otherwise. For example, on a club team who travels, it’s possible to make friends all across the country, or even the world. Many students who’ve played club sports before coming to STA have used those connections while finding friends here. 

When you’re a part of a team, it’s easier to connect with your teammates because you all share the same interest in a specific sport. It’s made possible to connect with people in different grade levels who you might’ve never had the chance to connect with otherwise. Teammates practice together every day, play games together every weekend, and often have to participate together in a little forced fun with team bonding experiences outside of training. Spending this much time with a group of people often leads to cultivating positive relationships that can continue even after the conclusion of the sports season. Team sports can bond a group of people together like glue. 

But there is also a downside to this forced friendship. Competition between players for playing time or the coach’s approval can cause tension. Getting cut, or getting moved up to varsity while your friend is left behind can create conflict in an already existing relationship. A disparity in athletic ability between friends can also become a source of contention, which can cause performance anxiety. 

Overwhelming expectations from parents — who expect you to get scholarships — coaches, and teammates who want to win can become toxic. Clashing mindsets of people taking the sport super seriously versus those who just want to play it for fun can cause negative impacts on a team’s chemistry. If teammates don’t show up to practice, or seem like they don’t want to be there, this could cause resentment towards that person both inside and outside of the game. 

The consensus for The Dart staff though, is that whether sports cultivate positive relationships is highly dependent on the sport in particular. For example, individual sports tend to bring about more positive relationships because athletes don’t have to rely on each other to win, but are still there for each other for mutual support, compared to team sports where it’s impossible to do it alone. If one player performs poorly, it affects and could jeopardize the whole team. 

Sports that tend to be more objective in regards to “who’s better,” are able to foster more positive relationships than those that are subjective. For example in cross country or track, if someone ran a better time than you, they simply just ran a better time. There’s not much room for debate over that. Contrast this with a sport like soccer, where it’s more of a gray area; it’s not as easy to tell who’s objectively “better,” so arguments and jealousy could be more readily ignited. 

Team sports can foster both long-lasting friendship and positive connection. On a more negative note however, team sports can also become a toxic environment as well if we’re not careful. Sports and the connections we make through them are an individualistic experience that is different for everyone.