Life Lessons through Athletics: Teamwork

Life Lessons through Athletics: Teamwork

As countless movies have told, one of the beauties of athletics is the way that it teaches the necessity of being able to cooperate and work together with people of all types. While this whole deal is fairly cliché and has been beaten to death, there is a great deal of truth in it. Clichés exist for a reason after all.

Anyone having competed in a team sport can immediately recognize the importance of the group working together and all members operating on the same page. Without a team working in unison they have instantly put themselves at a disadvantage in spite of how talented they may be as individuals. This teamwork is something built from abilities to establish a plan ahead of time, communicate effectively, and a willingness to adhere to the plan regardless of whether or not it leads to personal glory.

Learning to work as a solidified unit is essentially one of the greater missions of team sports. Phrases such as “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” are constantly repeated in reinforcement of this idea. Players are drilled to understand what exactly their role in the team is and how execution of their job will enable their teammates to perform their roles and in the end lead to greater team success. They are not taught to attempt to fit every need of a team and handle every job, rather they are taught to handle their job and their job alone. Teams are made out to be machines composed of many essential cogs, and should any of these cogs fail to perform their exact job, the team as a whole will most likely break down. The players of the team are entirely interdependent upon each other, each requiring the others to perform their roles in order to be able to handle their own. Through this knowledge players learn the importance of performing their jobs as they are told and sacrificing personal glory for the greater success of the team. Both of these things are lessons which carry over into everyday life and are highly valuable to success in the great deal of group work which nearly everyone experiences.

However, understanding one’s role in a system is not the only way in which sports develop one’s abilities to work in a team. What makes sports so interesting is the unpredictability and the way in which teams are required to react to everything on the fly. It is because of this that teams are more than machines drilled to repeat the same task over and over again. They are systems in which each part must be constantly assessing what is going on around them and communicating their observations to all other parts so that the system may adapt as a whole to best handle the task at hand. It is because of this that the value of communication is so heavily stressed. Players are made to understand the importance of team wide communication and from this pull the knowledge and skills necessary to maintaining strong communication in groups both in and outside of athletics.

Sometimes one of the most difficult parts of working in groups is not allowing yourself to be affected by whether or not you like all of the group members. This is another way in which participation in athletics serves to prepare one with strong group work skills. It is essentially inevitable that at some point in life everyone will encounter people they dislike, and this rule is definitely not one which escapes sports. Oftentimes teammates will have disagreements or fail to see eye to eye on a topic, but they have to learn to either get over their issues or find other ways to perform their role. They are not given an excuse for the simple reason that they dislike someone, and often they will be told by both coaches and teammates that they must find a solution. In this, athletics once again builds the abilities crucial to group work through exposing one to certain situations which force them to grow in this area.

Altogether, participation in athletics is something which can greatly improve one’s abilities to work in and contribute to a group for several reasons. Athletics not only give a great deal of invaluable experience in working in a team, but also provide a good number of lessons which provide direct advantage to one’s group work capabilities.

Alan is an upcoming Mechanical Engineering major and Computer Science minor at the University of Illinois. A recent graduate of KCD in Louisville, KY, Alan in his spare time enjoys long walks on the beach and moonlit poetry sessions. His hobbies include, but are not limited to, competitive unicycling and Russian bear wrestling.