Because school/community sports are omnipresent, we often take their value for granted — but maybe we shouldn’t. Millions of kids across the country play sports, and most of the time we focus on how our child plays, and to a lesser extent how well the team plays. It’s quite normal to pay close attention to our kid and his or her team, but we might want to widen the scope of our focus to include the impact our kid’s teams have on the community at-large, especially as this relates to town excitement, pride, and human relationships. The reality is that when our local teams win, we all win.
We vs. them
Have you ever noticed that when it comes to sports, we literally take on the identity of the team we like? When referencing the success of our team, we speak of it as though we are actually on the team. “We really beat up _____ today.” In fact, to further prove this point, we even disassociate with our team (albeit only momentarily) when our team performs poorly. “They played terrible and deserved to lose.” If you’re a sports fan, it’s OK to admit that you have closely aligned yourself with the team when they are winning, and deselected yourself when your team lost.
Digging deeper into our individual alignment with our favorite team and an interesting finding emerges — specifically, for most of us we automatically give our allegiance to our local youth and interscholastic teams, and therefore take on the same “we/them” mentality. “We” are our local high school team, and “we” enjoy success when they win. This relationship the community has with its local team often goes unnoticed, but maybe it shouldn’t, for the temperature of a community can often be taken directly from the success of the home team.
Collective support for the home team = stronger communities
While some kids benefit from growing up in healthy, prosperous, 2-parent homes, many do not. In fact, in some homes across our country kids don’t see much “winning” at home, but instead see a lot of poverty, unhealthy living conditions, substance abuse, and even violence. In situations like this, sometimes the only tangible highlights are experienced through sport success. Kids who feel part of something special develop stronger self-esteem and confidence — traits closely associated with happiness and success.
When the local team plays well, more people come out to games, talk about the games at the local coffee and barber shops, and place signs of support in their yards. Folks walk around town with more bounce in their step, and even puff their chests out a little more as they bask in the glory of being on the winning team. The feelings of success are not unique or limited to kids from tough homes, as all families enjoy sport success, but for some kids winning on the field is just about the only winning they experience.
We can argue all day whether communities should assume as much identity from their local sports teams as they do, but the reality is that local sport success does bring people together. When our hometown teams win, we win, and at least for a little while we are able to set aside differences we might have.