The ‘team’ aspect of playing an individual sport

May 23, 2019 — by Nitya Marimuthu

Don’t pass out, don’t pass out.

Junior Julia Hoffman kept this mantra in her head as she was running as she competed in one of her events — the 1600 meter race. During this race, Hoffman focuses mostly on keeping track of the number of laps she had completed and making sure she finished the race.

As a three-sport athlete (varsity soccer, varsity cross country and varsity track,) Hoffman has gone through her fair share of races and practices. Unlike races, Hoffman is able to let her mind wander during practices as she goes on the runs. Hoffman often thinks about events occurring in her life or things surrounding her as she runs. She also gets the opportunity to listen to music and chat with teammates.

By stark contrast, Hoffman’s mind and body are completely occupied during soccer games and practices. Although she enjoys both sports in different ways, she recognizes that in soccer she focuses much more on her team whereas in cross country she hones in on her own goals.

“You’re focusing more on not letting down your teammates because you have to physically be there for them when you’re on the field,” Hoffman said. “But then for running you have to rely on yourself to push yourself to keep going.”

Individual sports are traditionally regarded in the manner that Hoffman views them — individual players are a part of a team but are competing for their own success. Although this notion is true for some, others view the team dynamics surrounding “individual sports” to be much stronger than this.

Junior Cameron Chow has played both badminton and volleyball for the school and has experienced the difference in the team spirit of both teams.

Chow said that the competition in volleyball is more intense, as the pressure to win comes from the other members of the team. On the flip side, badminton is competitive mostly against the match opponent, and the pressure comes solely from the individual’s expectations for themselves.

Although Chow prefers individual sports, he agrees with the idea of team sports having a stronger sense of camaraderie than individual sports.

“Individual sports definitely have a weaker team dynamic than a team sport, because in a team sport, you have to rely on others to win the game,” Chow said. “But for an individual sport, it’s all on yourself to play well and not make mistakes.”

Competition is a key factor that plays into team dynamics in more than one way. Although competition from the other side causes players to bond together, rivalries can form within the team as individuals fight for playing time. Hoffman said this comes into play especially in teams at higher levels.

On the flip side, sophomore Alyssa Pinai, who plays varsity tennis and is a varsity long-jumper, said that she feels team sports provide the extra motivation by having teammates by your side.

“I think knowing that you’re not just competing for yourself and that your performance affects the entire team makes you push and work harder,” Pinai said.

The dynamic between players on team sports continues to prevail due to the deliberate choice made by team members to try and spend more time together. Although Pinai said the tennis team spent time together and brought in special treats for one another on birthdays, this was incomparable to the effort made by team sports.

In soccer, Hoffman said the team tried to have team bondings once a week, while in track she only had three throughout the whole season.

“I think it’s more on the team members, like people make more of an effort to get to know each other and to hang out more because you spend so much time together,” Hoffman said.