I’m not talking about what you usually hear… it helps you concentrate, you build bonds with people, you stay in shape, you sleep better, etc. I’m talking about the lessons you learn that you didn’t even know you were learning.
I speak from the experience of a female who has played team sports. I was always taught to use words instead of force when in a disagreement, not ever to push someone or get physical or violent. In kindergarten, it seemed like when the boys got mad at each other, they always turned to pushing each other, or hitting each other. And while they were scolded, it seemed expected of them.
When I first started to play soccer, I was told by coaches and parents alike to be more aggressive. It felt strange to me, my whole life I was told to be nice or to “kill them with kindness”, and now I was being told to be physical, and push someone around. I didn’t feel comfortable getting in another girls face, I was nervous they’d take it personally or that I’d hurt them. I wasn’t very aggressive, and if I girl was aggressive with me, I got intimidated really quickly.
A few years later, I quit soccer and was playing basketball. If you’ve never played before, let me tell you that it’s even more aggressive than soccer. The court is smaller than the field, and because you play with your hands rather than your feet, its a bit more slappy. I learned really quickly that playing defense meant literally getting as close to the player as possible, so you could steal the ball, or at least get in her head.
I’ve played basketball for four years, and I definitely have gotten more aggressive. When playing defense, I got more comfortable getting pushy, keeping my hand on the other players, using my body to push against hers. I got over my fear of offending her. During some games, my physicality would make her mad, and they’d complain, or tell me to back off. I’d just shrug. “It’s a contact sport.”
During practices and games, I learned that it was okay to play rough with my friends, it was okay to use my body to literally make space for myself, it was okay to get angry when something made you mad, it was okay to be better than the other girl and not hide it. It was the opposite of everything I was taught growing up, but it felt good.