The Social Network: Why Team Sports are Vital to Development

A lesson in community, generosity of spirit, and toughness from the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup


We’ve all heard the Latin phrase, mens sana in corpore sano. It’s just as true now is it was when Juvenal wrote it in the late first century A.D. But aside from the personal benefit of healthy lifestyle, team sports also offer something more: friendship and community. And, there was perhaps no better example of this than in the semifinal of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The dream of a World Cup final was within their grasp, but for the English women’s national team, it wasn’t to be in 2015. Unfortunately, the loss for the Lionesses came on an own-goal by Laura Bassett, giving Japan a 2–1 victory. It was a moment when Bassett could have felt completely isolated, but for her team, as Lucy Pearson outlines in a recent piece for the Telegraph.

This is the beauty of team sport: it can inspire greatness, and I don’t mean creating legends of the game — I mean moments of magnanimity which resonate. We see something special, something noble which transcends expectation and reminds us that at its best, sport is as much about nobility of spirit as it is about winning.

Immediately after the own-goal, Bassett was surrounded by her teammates.

Team sport, team activities and team challenges are as important to young people’s development and future success as any academic qualification. We have to help young people learn what it means to be part of a community and what it means to contribute positively to that community.
We must teach them to understand that we all make mistakes and that we are at our strongest when we show empathy and compassion to those around us. Equally we must teach them the resolve to come back from mistakes and the ability to learn from them so that we are stronger and better.

Pearson is absolutely right. This is why we watch sports — not only for the impressive feats of athleticism, but also for those most human, most noble, and ultimately most meaningful moments. This is the true value of team sports, and why they do so much to complement and strengthen classroom education.

So, hats off to coach Mark Sampson and the Lionesses, who have inspired not only through their exemplary play, but also through their exemplary spirit — something that resonates at every level.

-The SportUp Team

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