Did you know that playing sports can lead to a healthy heart and an extended lifespan? You probably already do. We are all aware of how playing sports can do wonders for your health. However, pointing out the obvious would mean understating the incredible history behind sports and the equally incredible values that accompany them. Let’s think outside of the box for a change. Sports offer a hands-on experience in teaching us values, most notably sportsmanship, perseverance, and teamwork. Exploring these values in-depth would make way toward a world with less cut-throat competition, less acceptance of failure, and less self-interest in team objectives.
Sportsmanship is an underrated aspect of playing sports. Despite being assigned as each other’s rivals, athletes learn to develop mutual respect and love the game itself rather than the external rewards. A 2010 study by the Awards and Recognition Association (ARA) proved that 67 percent of Americans believe that sports involvement and good sportsmanship can tie the community together. A notable example from the 2001 FIFA World Cup can also bring this belief to life. Instead of shooting towards the net that was left unattended by an injured Everton goalkeeper, West Ham’s Paolo di Canio caught the ball to tend to his opponent. This led the crowd, both comprising of West Ham and Everton fans, to unite in celebrating his actions. This theme of fair play does not die with team sports. Racing towards the 2016 Rio Olympics, the world witnessed the collision of New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin and USA’s Abbey D’Agostino during the 5,000 meter run. After recovering from shock, they were moved to see the women helping each other to their feet and running the rest of the race together. In a sense, sports teach us that love does conquer all and remind us that people can be remembered for their acts of kindness, not just their successes.
Perseverance is one of many advantages that athletes hone over time. The ones who stand up after getting hit with failure are more inclined to succeed than the ones who remain face-flat on the floor with defeat. The Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies revealed that 43 percent of American high school student athletes tend to have greater self-confidence and self-respect— two traits necessary to persevere against all odds. NBA player Jeremy Linn came away empty-handed in terms of sports scholarships and was waived by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. It was not before he joined the New York Knicks and got added into a game out of sheer desperation, that his career started to soar. The power of perseverance can even combat adversaries who “play dirty.” Though he was a top-ten UFC fighter, Michael Bisping was failing to contend for a title and facing losses against fighters who were later exposed for taking performance enhancing drugs. Despite these setbacks, he succeeded in defeating Luke Rockhold for the UFC Middleweight title. There has never been a success story in sports that did not include at least a certain degree of perseverance. This growth mindset has pushed even the most inexperienced of champions to gradually rise to the top.
Teamwork, whether in gym class or the IFAF World Championship, is essential towards reaching a successful outcome. Collective effort is no doubt better than individual effort when it comes to achieving goals. A study from the Journal of Quantitative Analysis of Sports showed that in NBA games, small forwards who assist their teammates tend to contribute most to a team’s probability of winning. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, a team of four bobsledders— Steve Mesler, Curtis Tomasevicz, Steve Holcomb, and Justin Olsen— worked together to endure harsh weather and dangerous tracks. Their efforts paid off, as America won their first gold medal for bobsledding in 62 years. The same principle can be found during the 2007 and 2009 NCAA Fencing Championships. When the Penn State Nittany Lions motivated each other and held themselves to higher standards for the sake of their team, they won team championship titles twice. Most victories in sports are living reminders that instead of the “every man for himself” mentality, the “no man gets left behind” mentality can be highly beneficial for a team’s success.