Please Explain the Benefits of Team Sports?

There’s an article in the Boston Globe today about yet another father getting violent at his son’s sporting event. This time, the man grabbed an 8-year old boy’s neck and swore at him (the boy he assaulted was not even his son….not that it makes any difference). A few years ago a father KILLED another man when he got upset during his son’s hockey practice.

So, I’m aksing…what is the benefit of team sports/gym class? From what I can tell, it creates hostility, rage, jealousy, violence and an often times unhealthy competitive nature (as opposed to a healthy competitive nature). If you say team sports are good because they provide physical fitness for our children, there are better methods. Perhaps, our school’s gym classeses could focus on actual calisthenics as opposed to football, baseball, basketball, and the time-honored tradition of dodge ball. Because inevitably with team sports, the less-sporty just stand along the side lines and avoid the football/baseball/soccer ball anyway and receive no benefit from the class. During the one week per year in my childhood when our gym classes actually focused on physical activity, I felt a sense of accomplishment at doing X number of sit ups or Y number of pull ups. I also liked the challenge of climbing the rope to the ceiling of the gymnasium.

You might also say team sports help promote teamwork and team-building skills. Again, I beg to differ. My recollection of high school gym class consisted of the jocks showing off by monopolizing the ball and/or trying to humiliate the weaker/less skilled students. In high school sports, there somehow really is an “I” in Team.

Once again, there are better ways of creating team work, such as spotting each other during push-ups and sit-ups. Even better, how about team sports that aren’t focused on the rage/bully factor. You never hear about a swim team brawl…and that’s a sport that focuses on your actual physical strengths and not your ability to pounce a person 1/2 of your size. An even better way of promoting team work is through intellectual team-building exercises (which are much more relevent in the adult world anyway, are they not?). So, why not let gym focus on health and leave the team-building to other departments?

Another side effect of team sports is that it creates an us vs. them attitude. At my school, there was a very clear disitinction between the jocks (who happened to also be rich/preppy*) and “the rest of us”. The movie Heathers did an amazing job are portraying this. This mentality followed off the football/baseball field and into the lunch room and class rooms. I saw the Breakfast Club. I know what can happen (Emilio Estevez taping that kids hairy butt cheeks together, Anthony Michael Hall bringing in a gun to kill himself). And let’s not bring up Columbine.

Gee? Do you think I might not have been a sporty lad in school? But with parents attacking other parents (and now children) at their children’s sporting events, with cheer-leader Mom’s plotting to kill other cheer-leaders and with riots in the streets after every Super Bowl and World Series game, I’m just unable to grasp the benefits of team sports.


*Karyn – speaking of rich and preppy, remind me to send you a picture of my cousin, Peter (she had a crush on him, if I recall). He got married recently and, man, did he age badly.


  1. Comment by chrispy on January 7, 2005 11:00 am

    DELAYED REACTION: um, are you JUST NOW tapping into that reserve of anger and resentment that many of us referred to as high school?

    but, do you really think its the “Sport’s” fault that these cases of severe examples of competition induced emotional problems have come about?

    the people youve cited are just F*cking Nuts thats all. and as for the jocks in high school…hey, we all had to deal with/act out our pubescent issues in one form or another. right?

  2. Comment by Karl on January 7, 2005 11:04 am

    Believe it or not, I was not one of the ridiculed in gym class. I did stand along the side lines and avoid people, but (fortunately) wasn’t pounced, beaten or insulted.

    I did feel inferior, though. I’m glad gym was only required until 10th grade.

  3. Comment by jeff on January 7, 2005 1:27 pm

    I got a doctor’s note that said I couldn’t take part in gym class because of knee problem at the end of 9th grade. The school never saw the note that said I could go back to gym class.

    As it was, I suffered through enough dodgeball and hockey games where the sole purpose was to kill anyone that wasn’t a jock.

  4. Comment by karyn on January 7, 2005 4:07 pm

    Now you’ve gone and got both sides of the argument going at it in my head.

    As a former preschool teacher, Rec. Employee, YMCA employee, and children’s softball coach, let me just say that gym class (however loathesome) and sports do not create hositility, rage, jealousy and violence. They do sadly provide a convenient outlet for people who are already saddled with those things.

    Now as a parent, let me tell you, the only way in this lifetime I would get truly incensed at a sporting event featuring one of my children is if someone hurt him, in which case I will morph into the mother from hell and rip the offending party’s head off with my teeth and shove it in an orifice which will require an orthopedic surgeon to remove it. Well… I might get angry if someone refers to my son as “the daisy picker in left field”, but I hope I would have it in me to channel my rage in an appropriate manner.

    The purpose of gym class, I think, is to make sure kids are getting SOME gross motor activity and exercise while they are under the care of a government regulated facility. Too many go home and hit the X Box or whatever, and never see the outside. I agree that contact sports are questionable. But I do love baseball. And if I could manage to guess where the damn ball was going, I’d love tennis. Swimming – -are you out of your mind? First, I don’t care what anyone tells me, I can’t swim. Physical science be damned; I am not buoyant. It might defy the laws of physics but there you go. Second, pools are like giant toilets. I don’t care how much chlorine is used to “shock” the pool free of germs and bacteria, it is nasty. Once at the Y, a kid pooped in the pool. I was appalled, figuring they would banish everyone from the pool area, drain it, scrub it with something, and have to rinse it to kindgom come before they could refill it and allow people back in. WRONG – – they scoop out the offending feces, and everyone jumped back in. I spent days gagging just thinking of it.

    If you are going to make a case against activities, programs and other social traditions that engender hostility, violence, jealousy and rage, may I introduce you to the search for prom dates and dresses? Or the SATs? Or scholarship based activities? Why are schools offering insane scholarships to people for their ability to hit/throw/catch a ball? How about shoe shopping at a discount place which sells last season’s Manolos for $50? Or the mall? Or the car dealership? Or the highway, for that matter? Or religion? Or politics?

    Those negative forces are found everywhere, not just the realm of enforced athletics. And parents who go psycho over their kid’s games have had their toes at the volcano’s edge for a while. It’s just sad and inexcusable when a youth activity is the thing that pushes them into acts of violence that damage so many lives in so many ways.

    Gym did suck though, I’m with you on that.

    And if you never bring up the Peter thing in a public forum again, I would appreciate it! (But by all means, send the picture. By sr. year, he looked like he was on the hunt for a missing chromosome, so I can only guess what he looks like now. This I must see!)

    Ok, sorry to rant, this was a long post. Sorry sorry.

  5. Comment by Will on January 7, 2005 5:46 pm

    I have nothing against athletic activities in schools, but I have a LOT against the attitude that athletics is the only activity that fosters teamwork or will give kids worthwhile things to do.

    Playing in a school band, small chamber ensemble, student orchestra or chorus, appearing in a play or musical or working on the backstage crew of any of the above will quickly and surely teach team skills and provide a deeply fulfilling experience for a young person.

    Sadly, the pro-athletics lobby always gets its way and the arts are being ruthlessly eliminated from our schools as expensive and elitist. But when you look at the behavior of professional players and the influence they have on the college and (especially) high school players, you have to wonder if too high a price is being paid for the “benefits” of athletics.

  6. Comment by Michael C. on January 7, 2005 8:39 pm

    Um… I think you’re preaching to the choir here, Karl.

  7. Comment by Robert on January 7, 2005 9:47 pm

    Our government is just like that innit? Anyway, a lot of times, I’m more scared of the fans!! Like the Lakers games and stuff, we have riots over that!

    I hate all sports, except for sex! 🙂

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a comment