Playing sports provides you with many benefits including fun, physical exercise, competition, and an outlet to express yourself. When you get together with your friends in the backyard or driveway for a pickup game, you probably also enjoy the camaraderie—the warm feeling of good fellowship we get when we share an experience with others. To varying degrees, most of us take pleasure in this sense of community.
In both individual and team sports, pickup or organized, you will find many opportunities to be part of an enjoyable shared experience. In some cases you will find others that share the same passion for your sport—who enjoy its beauty and flow, competing to win, or the challenge of testing one’s abilities against personal limits or some standard of performance. With these individuals you often find friendship based on this common bond. In other instances, casual or less skilled players may have a limited interest in playing, but do so mainly because they enjoy being part of a group.
In team sports, your teammates share the experience with you. In games with your friends, everybody enjoys the shared friendly competition. But even in more serious competitive situations, with opponents you do not know, there is often a mutual respect based on everyone’s shared passion and enjoyment of the sport. You and your opponent are both part of the same community.
Individual sports also provide an opportunity for community—each competitor respectful of the other’s similar passion and commitment. Individual competitors can even find a sense of team between each other in certain situations. For example, two competitive tennis players representing rival schools may find themselves supporting and rooting for each other in a distant tournament.
In team sports, try to minimize internal cliques (i.e., small groups) and their often destructive effect on the chemistry of your team. Find and promote shared common ground with all of your teammates. If you’re in a position to lead, try to recognize potential disruptions within your team before they grow and take hold. A key word from you to another player may be all that’s needed to short-circuit a potential problem.
As you grow older, and begin to experience more injuries or responsibilities that take you away from your game, you will come to value the communal aspect of sports even more. In your pursuit of excellence, always try to respect your teammates, opponents and the game itself. Recognize and appreciate that you are all part of the same community, and that your sport makes the reward of this shared experience possible.