It’s no secret that the main purpose of school is to learn and, if the proper skills are there, to make friends along the way. Outside of school’s academic realm, having made a few good buds can really pay off at the end of the work day, and often times there is no better way to do so than through athletics.
In my personal experiences with sports, I have made some of my most important friendships in the heat of competition. It’s amazing what kind of brotherhood or sisterhood one can develop by simply playing alongside a group of students for a while.
My first high school experience with this phenomenon was running varsity cross-country my freshman year. It involved traveling with classmates by bus—sometimes for hours—to arrive at some foreign place and seeing a side of people to which I would have otherwise been oblivious.
The invitational run at Stanford is a perfect example: The three-hour van ride there was just the beginning, and the experience was rounded out by being cramped with the entire boys team, listening to their music, hearing their stories and learning more about them as people.
It’s almost like seeing a teacher at the same store you’re getting your groceries at—the astonishment in finding out that they live real, relatable lives outside of the classroom.
The benefits of athletics go beyond just the excitement of victory or the acceptance of defeat, and studies conducted by TrueSport have shown that playing sports improves self-esteem and social confidence, as well as builds stronger peer relationships.
For me, first-hand experience of this was the recent varsity baseball trip to Newport beach for a five-day tournament. Though we didn’t do as well as we are used to, it was truly a bonding experience.
My coach spitefully joked at practice that the highlight of our season was Disneyland, and I honestly wouldn’t mind if he were right. It was a great trip, and our team grew closer than it has ever been in my time on varsity.
The relationships forged during athletic competition have been the most real ones in my life, as competition shows a person’s true colors: how they act under pressure and if they can rise above expectations.
Thus, it’s safe to say that sports have led me to the greatest friendships, and it has nothing to do with being a “jock” and everything to do with getting to know the most genuine side of a person.