Columnist: Team sports teach important life lessons

February 8, 2018 — by Leo Cao

All athletes have to make decisions about how they want to compete. One of these important choices is whether they want to be involved in a team or play individually.

Although there are certainly benefits to both paths, team sports are superior because of the many valuable lessons that they teach compared to those of individual sports.

I have played many team sports, such as basketball, baseball and soccer, and only one individual sport, tennis. Through these experiences, I realized that working with others on a team has truly shaped my social skills, work ethic and leadership abilities.

When I played started playing soccer in elementary school, I was not a very good team player. I did not always have the confidence to approach a group and ask to join the fun, but after spending time with my teammates and learning to effectively communicate with them, I became more confident in my daily life.

On a team, players need more than just athletic ability to compete at a high level. They need to fully trust each other and build chemistry through their interactions.

During middle school, I played on a basketball team where the players came from a number of different schools. At the beginning of the season, players would only pass the ball to people that they were familiar with, which caused us to lose many games. But as the season progressed, everyone started to trust each other and share the ball, and we ultimately won the league championship.

Team sports push players to rely on someone else, essential to development of healthy relationships, growth of businesses and creating strong friendships. For students, this means that strong teamwork at school during group projects helps them complete tasks efficiently and quickly.

Another important aspect of team sports is how they encourage people to be less self-centered and understand a sense of community. As I have gotten older, I’ve realized that community is where people find comfort in difficult times. It is important to contribute to community whether it is one’s family, neighborhood or school.

Furthermore, players need to comprehend that focusing on individual performance not only does not always guarantee success, but also often hurts the team. Communication and confidence in teammates is more important than individual accomplishments.

There are many individual sports on our campus, such as track, swimming, and singles in tennis and badminton. These sports provide a different type of enjoyment for players. Unlike football or basketball, athletes are often not looking for the adrenaline rush, but rather as a peaceful way to relieve their stress.

Individual athletes make many sacrifices to improve their performances, but the nature of sacrifices that many team players must make teach a sense of humility and sense of cooperation.

For example, on many of the soccer teams that I played on, I was not one of the better players on the team. But I learned to sacrifice my ego and contribute in any way I can, whether that is actually playing in the game or cheering for my teammates on the bench.

In many sports, there are certain players who work extremely hard, but their contributions are not valued as much as those of a person who plays a “more important” role on the team.

This may be one of the major reasons for an athlete’s inclination toward an individual sport. But in my experience, when I understood that a team’s performance collectively is more important, it made the sport even more fun to play as learning to work effectively teammates is part of the challenge.

Exposure to both team sports and individual sports is crucial for kids, and the decision to play one or the other ultimately depends on the player and his or her preferences.

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