Team sports are an effective vehicle for promoting youth development, but they can also expose athletes to peer pressure and negative social behaviors (Bruner, Eys, & Turnnidge, 2013; Fraser-Thomas, Cote, & Deakin, 2005). In order to provide positive developmental experiences, sport teams need to be structured in such a way that youth can acquire both sports-specific and life skills.
Team-based training programs can promote positive youth development because they are characterized by a supportive and trusting environment that allows youth to set challenging goals, develop interpersonal relationships, and experience personal growth. Individualized training programs at an early stage may create a sense of isolation and increase competition with teammates, which can undermine the development of a team-based sense of belonging (Evans, Eys, & Bruner, 2012; Evans & Eys, 2015).
The demand to compete and to cooperate is higher in team versus individual sports: When comparing individual and team athletes, we found that team athletes rated a greater demand to compete and to cooperate with their focal sport than did individual athletes. This is likely due to the fact that team sports require team members to work together on a regular basis.
In addition, team athletes had more cooperative behavioral tendencies (e.g., information sharing) than did individual athletes when experiencing competition, whereas they had less cooperative thoughts (e.g., when they were asked to predict the future performance of a partner) during competitive events. In contrast, team athletes had no carry-over effects of competition on their cooperative behaviors and thoughts after a subsequent competition.
However, the simultaneous demands to compete and to cooperate were not exhibited during relay competitions (e.g., in swimming). Relay competitions do not contain behavioral interdependence and thus are not considered as team sports.
Group norms influence the social dynamics of team sports: During competition, group norms emerge around the amount of effort players should exert during practice and tournaments. These norms influence the behavior of team members, who are rewarded for conforming to these standards or punished if they don’t. Inappropriate behavior is often sanctioned through verbal abuse, ostracism, or expulsion from the group.
Despite the potential benefits of group norms, forming and maintaining these norms is not always easy. Inappropriate behaviors can lead to conflict and disciplinary measures, which may negatively impact the development of positive attitudes toward the group and its members.
Children that play team sports are more likely to have better self-esteem and have lower levels of depression than those that don’t. This is because team sports teach children that hard work and dedication are essential to success. They are also taught that a loss in one’s games or career is a learning moment to improve, rather than dwelling on it and becoming discouraged.
Although many team sports are relatively simple, they can still be difficult to master. For example, tennis requires a great deal of patience and a strong commitment to practice. In addition, it requires good hand-eye coordination and stamina. Other popular team sports include football, baseball, and basketball.