As a student who plays three sports a season, I’ve noticed that the atmosphere of each team has had a huge impact on not only me, but my teammates as well. Having the ability to feel safe and welcomed on a team plays a major role in athletic performance, as well as mental health. Without feeling welcome, athletes may not be able to work to their best abilities, or achieve their set goals. This is why it is so crucial that we highlight the importance of having a safe and comfortable team environment. One where people are supported instead of looked down upon, and where students can look forward to coming to practice each day opposed to dreading it.
A major problem that I’ve witnessed during school sports is students looking down upon or scrutinizing other students for their personalities, or the way in which they perform. It’s not acceptable to treat people as less than, and it is something that should be addressed. A major part of playing a team sport is supporting your peers. This support could lead to better performance and stronger team players. On a team such as cross country, for example, it is crucial to supply your fellow teammates with the needed support to get them through the race. I have experienced many races where the only thing that got me through it was the kind words from my teammates and coaches. This helped me to stay out of my own head, and stay away from a negative mindset.
Along with this support and encouragement, it is just as important to treat your teammates as your equal. Acknowledging that one student may be stronger in a certain aspect of a sport is acceptable, but treating them as less than because they aren’t as “good” at a sport is not. Each member of a team has their strengths, and each has their weaknesses, but every member should be considered of value. Each person plays a role, and with the proper practice and training, everyone has the potential to be great.
Without the opportunity to have a safe space on school sports teams, student athletes will not have the ability to perform to the best of their abilities. With help from peers, coaches, and sometimes even parents, student athletes can have the opportunity to do great, along with having a stable support system. It is crucial that we outline the seriousness of this subject, and the impact which it could have on students and teams everywhere.