Having been born in Portugal in the mid-sixties, sports, and specially team sports, were not considered an important part of a little girl’s education. I was a tomboy as a kid, as well as slightly overweight, very lazy, and physically awkward and uncoordinated. Partially because of my family’s upbringing and partially to help off-set my lack of femininity, my mom signed me up for ballet in grade school. I just hated it! So much so that I constantly made sure to have snot running down my nose so that the French ballet teacher would send me to the bathroom to tidy myself up… which I took as long as possible to do. By the time I was a teenager living in Canada, and given some choice on what sports to do, I naturally chose individual activities, such as Judo, swimming, and Tai Chi. This means that although I just loved (and love) to watch football, soccer and hockey, playing team sports were not within my scope of reality.
Thank goodness, things changed in my mid-twenties, when I started dating an Ultimate frisbee player and coach that is currently my husband of twenty something years. After falling in love with the sport while watching his team play at the highest level in the World Club Championship in Toronto, I joined the team he started at the University where we were both graduate students. Twenty-six years later, and I am still playing. Of course, things have changed since we played Toronto league in the early nineties … I now play on the beach (sand is softer on the bones) in Portugal, and I am probably slower. But when I think of retiring from the sport, I immediately start to think of possible substitution team sports. As much as I enjoy individual physical activity, I have come to realize that not only am I addicted to pushing myself physically, but that I also crave the lessons I learn and the feeling I get from playing a team sport.
Fantastic life lessons that come from belonging to a sports team include:
Learning to work as a group for a common goal while managing different personalities, expectations, and needs. On a team with many players, managing emotions can especially challenging in a competitive situation. Examples of this Include over-celebrating wins, accepting losses, and congratulating the opposite team after an exceptionally difficult match.
Team sports can therefore greatly help in developing emotional maturity. There is a huge amount of growth that comes from dealing with personal failure and letting down your team as well as learning to let go of past mistakes. In sports, as in life, quick recuperation from screw ups is key, as mistakes themselves inevitably happen.
Team sports also bring great lessons in responsibility, fair play, and communication. Taking responsibility for knowing and playing by the rules, keeping a clear and objective mind during matches and being able to talk and listen are all part of what makes a great team player.
Another advantage of a team is the feeling of belonging to a group. This is wonderful from a social as well as psychological point of view. With game practices and competitions at least twice a week, the social aspect of playing a sport can be an important part of life.
Abstracting from daily life is also an important benefit of a team sport. Even when we are preoccupied with something, often when we start to practice of play, we stop thinking about whatever work or personal issue was bothering us. This distance gained often results on greater mental clarity later.
These are just some of the advantages of team sports, which taken together with the physical fitness aspect, make our bodies and brains function better… therefore allowing for us to live a richer life. The sport I play is especially attractive for me as it is self-refereed, which I believe to be highly enriching from a personal growth point of view. However, any team sport is a great way to do physical activity and socialize. The other day I heard someone say, ”Physical activity helps your brain function”. No doubt it does, in fact, we need physical activity for our brains to function at their best. With a team, not only is fitness more fun, there are a bunch of extra aspects that can help us be better people! The choices of sports are endless, and for all shapes, sizes and/or ages. What sports teams are available in your community that you could join?