The Power of Team Sport in Your 30s (and Any Age)
I was fortunate that my parents prioritized sports for my brother and I growing up. He mainly stuck to baseball while I tried anything and everything - figure skating, hockey, gymnastics, track and field - before sticking with soccer from age four through to, well, now.
I played competitively throughout high school and in university I played in various rec and co-ed leagues. Now, as an adult, I’m still lacing up my cleats and hitting the turf once or twice a week to chase a ball around with other adults.
Not everyone has this experience though. I found a few recent stats about girls in sport and you may be surprised by them (like I was):
Girls drop out of sport at 6x the rate as boys in their early teens.
Only 2% of girls ages 12-17 are getting enough physical activity.
If a girl doesn’t participate in sport by the age of 10, there is only a 10% chance of her being active at the age of 25.
84% of adult women don’t participate in sport.
Playing sports as an adult is not something I ever considered unique or “out of the norm” but these stats tell me otherwise. I guess I’ve been naive to think this for all these years. But why does it even matter? Why do people need sport in their life? Why the big fuss?
There is no denying the power of team sport. Whether you’re 14 or 33, when you join a team you are joining a sister/brotherhood. You go through victories, losses, intense moments, happy moments, celebrations, vulnerable moments, frustrations… and these shared experiences are something that can bond you like nothing else -- at least for the season, if not for life. And as an adult, I think it becomes even more important for the below reasons.
Make new friends. It’s been one year and two months since I moved back to Toronto. I have a small group of friends here that I’ve known for a long time, but I’ve always been that person who’s open to making new ones and as an adult this can be especially hard. I can count on one hand the amount of new friends I’ve made since being back. You can take a course, you can join apps (Bumble BFF anyone?), you can meet people through work, but overall, it’s pretty hard to break into established friend groups when you’re new to a city. So earlier this summer I joined two teams with the aim to turn those teammates into friends.
Reconnect with old passions and hobbies. I never really stopped playing soccer, but there were a few years that I didn’t play due to an injury. Once I started again, I was hooked. It’s amazing how all those feelings can come rushing back and you’re reminded how much you lived and breathed this sport and the time you spent with your teammates. I look at old photos from soccer tournaments and literally sometimes want to cry because I can remember how much joy those weekends gave me. When I hit the field now with new teammates, I’m brought back to those days and those feelings. Nowadays, I’d much rather be on the field under the lights than at the bar.
Spend time with likeminded people. When you join a sport or team, there’s an implicit acknowledgement of shared values and interests. Off the field, you may be very different people and have very different interests, but when you’re playing on a team you’re surrounding yourself with people who, presumably, value exercise, teamwork, healthy competition, social interaction, being outdoors (depending on the sport), health. Those are all important things to me, and while I love my friends they don’t all necessarily share those same values. So being around people who do -- that’s just plain old good for my soul.
The health benefits. Let’s not forget all the physical and mental health benefits that come with being active in sport. Exercise boosts energy, it improves your mood, it helps you sleep better, it can help combat health conditions and diseases (like stroke, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, arthritis, type 2 diabetes), and of course it can help you control weight. It also helps with your self esteem. When you build your strength and endurance, you build your confidence.
If you’re in Toronto and looking for ways to be more active, you can check out: