When people think of sports, images of fierce competitions, divided fans, and overpaid athletes usually come to mind. While there are a lot of negative components that are involved with playing sports, these aspects are not necessarily inherent to a person’s experience as an athlete. Therefore, whether or not a playing a sport can build character heavily depends on the type of sport in which the person is involved, his or her motivations for playing the sport, and whether or not the person has reasonably good character prior to his or her introduction to the sport.
Individual vs. Team Sports
Because playing on a team requires cooperation, team sports are more likely to build social character than individual sports. Teammates must look out for the well-being of others. In most cases, being self-centered is generally discouraged and will likely be noticed by other teammates and coaches. It is also generally within a team’s best interest to support its weakest members and to help one another if someone is struggling on or off the playing field. Bonds are often built in team settings, and people are able to develop positive social skills and forge friendships that extend to other areas of their lives. Playing on a team also allows room for athletes to challenge themselves personally. Individual sports may also build character; however, this usually takes place in different ways than in a team setting. In sports that require individual participation, the athlete’s focus is mainly on overcoming personal obstacles and achieving goals he or she has set for himself. In individual athletics, there is a risk that the athlete will become too individually focused; however, this risk is also somewhat present in the team setting, though there are more people who are available to point out self-centered behavior and correct the athlete in a team setting.
A person’s reasons for playing a sport can vary greatly. While some play sports for exercise, social interaction, and to learn a new skill, others become involved because they believe playing sports will lead to other opportunities such as educational opportunities, income, or increased popularity. While it is not inherently wrong to play a sport with the hope of earning a college scholarship or winning a monetary prize, individuals who are solely motivated by these payoffs may be less focused on personal growth and more interested in winning at any cost.
Personal Character Outside of Sports
In the end, whether or not a person has positive personality traits or is open to improving will be a major determinant in whether or not playing sports can build his or her character. Some athletes have low integrity when they begin playing sports, and the have no desire to change. Others are open to learning and growing through participating in sports and, therefore, are most likely to improve internally as a result of their experience with athletics.
While there are athletes at all levels who exhibit poor character, oftentimes, the sources of their negative personality traits stem far deeper than the sport he or she plays. Therefore, it is unfair to argue that highly paid and publicized athletes find themselves in trouble with the law or gaining negative attention because they have been corrupted by sports. Building character through participation in athletics is entirely possible to those who are looking for self-improvement opportunities.
Leslie writes for allpro about various sports.