Wednesday June 12th 2024

It’s often been mentioned that the bonds formed by members of a high level athletic team are similar to those formed by a military unit. The shared experiences amongst the members allows a closeness that isn’t common amongst amongst some more common friend groups. This bond will often last throughout many years and shape the development of those young people, culminating with memories that will last a lifetime.

The coming together of team is way more powerful when it’s united in a common goal

This sentiment is not unique as some people like to put their time they spent in high school in that same category. American high schools as well as Canadian ones (other than Quebec) have that experience in that the time spent there is formative from the transition of Middle School to High School (In Quebec, we don’t have middle school so for us, the experience isn’t as relatable). Because in high school, you’re at an earlier point in your life, you tend to be more impressionable and like a sports team, there’s also that shared experience. Proving this point is the popularity of many American movies about the high school experience which are ingrained in our Pop Culture because they are so relatable (movies such as the Breakfast Club and Mean Girls spring to mind as it shows the long and storied tradition of displaying the high school experience for the various generations).

However, I would argue that there’s a difference between the high school experience and that of a high level sports team. In high school, you’re obligated to be there so you can either treat it as a positive or negative experience. It should also be noted that the only choice you in going to high school is which one to attend and not the actual attendance part. In other words, with a few exceptions, many people will have the same sort of experiences throughout time in high and that uniformity plays a huge part in that. Also, with a certain amount of exceptions, high school doesn’t provide the same type of challenges as that of a sports team.

Being part of a team, and a wrestling team at that, is just different from anything else

So what makes sports different? Why is the bond stronger? For one, being on a sports team is a matter of choice. You choose to be there for many reasons and that already provides a different level of intrinsic motivation. I also think the it boils down to not just a sense of shared experiences but a sense of shared trauma. While trauma is never a good thing, sports at a high level isn’t exactly child’s play either. It requires a certain amount of hard work, sacrifice and a bit of suffering to get there. In the process, an understanding is built and bonds are formed that culminate in either a brotherhood, or sisterhood in some cases, for life. As you make that transition during your formative years spent in a sports team, the previous statement is that much more poignant.

The right training partners enhances your experiences and sense of belonging

The type of sport that you’re in fosters different types of relationships. Having played on some other teams before I started wrestling seriously, I think that the bonds that are formed amongst wrestlers are stronger than most other teams. I think that the nature of the sport of wrestling is more akin to going to war. After all, wrestling is a combat sport, so already there’s that survivalist nature. Second, while wrestling is ultimately an individual sport, one can argue that you depend more on your teammates than in any other sport. I’ve mentioned this before that any other sport can be trained to a greater or lesser degree by yourself. Certain skills can be honed by either a series of drills, repetitions or exercises. In wrestling, this is pretty much impossible as the physical aspect of our sport relies greatly on the reactions of our teammates and training partners. Without a solid team around an athlete, wrestling is pretty much impossible.

So in the end, the bonds formed in a sports team are ones that are unique to each and every sport. They shape our development and give us a sense of purpose and belonging. While my bias towards wrestling may be a foregone conclusion, I think that my experience in coaching other sports gives me a more educated opinion on the matter. This sense of belonging engendered from sport will continue for many years to come and can never be replicated in any other types of environments.