The Value of Team Sports (or What I Learned from My Brother Pt 1)

Last weekend, my brother attended Commencement Exercises at the University of New Hampshire. He will graduate from UNH in December with a degree in Athletic Training. During his four years in Durham, he was part of two transformations, one personal and one organizational. Both stories need to be told, as both are perfect case studies. This is part one, discussing how being a part of a team changed my brother’s life.

My brother has always been an intelligent and active person. He has a broad range of interests and abilities that he showcased during his time in grade school. Baseball player, drummer, cyclist, actor, student and friend. While he participated in a number of activities and paid attention in school, he was never truly interested in any one thing over another. That all changed when he arrived on the campus of UNH in the fall of 2008.

Tall and skinny, Brandon has a perfect build for crew. At his freshman orientation, he was approached by the crew coach and asked if he was interested in joining the crew team. With nothing to lose (and no prior experience), he said he’d give it a try, and I believe that it changed his life.

Despite what others may argue, I believe that crew (particularly eights) is the ultimate team sport. Everyone in the boat must be on the same page and operating perfectly in sync with each other for the boat to move. To be successful in rowing it requires coordination in the boat, and a dedication to the sport that few ever see. Practice at 5am? Check. Practice on a semi-frozen river in February? Check. Countless (boring) hours spent pulling on an erg? Check. Oh, and do all this for a race that might last 6 minutes in total (you race for a total of roughly an hour every season).

Once he discovered crew, my brother became a different person. He was dedicated to his craft; working out all summer, every summer. He became organized and an excellent time manager, building homework time into his day out of necessity. Finally, he became an outstanding student, finding a subject that he loved and dedicating himself to it just as he dedicated himself to crew.

Everyone goes through a transformation and a growth process when they attend college. While there is no doubt that my brother would have grown up and matured during his time at New Hampshire, I don’t think that he would be the man he is today without his involvement in crew. Crew has taught him a number of lessons that will help him succeed now and in the future.

These and other growth opportunities are not unique to team sports, however I believe that this is the true power of sports. Competition creates a clear result – success or failure based upon the outcome. To be successful in sports requires many of the same attributes that it requires in life, and these attributes are reinforced through the outcome of sporting events. My brother changed the direction of his life through competition and has become a successful young man with a great future ahead of him.

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