Everyone raves about the benefits of team sports for children. They develop teamwork. They develop social skills and networks of friends and so on. But team sports may pale in comparison to individual performance sports when it comes to things like independent thought, leadership, and self reliance.
Self reliance is a skill undoubtedly developed in individual sports. As a sole performer, you’ve got no one to rely on but yourself. Training for that event you may have several friends and training partners helping you, but you know that it’s up to you on performance day. Whereas in group sports most athletes have the knowledge that success and failure both are a team effort, and no matter how well or how poorly one performs, it’s up to the team as a whole to work together and win. One may argue this develops dependence rather than independence.
In team sports, there may be a team captain whose real job is to boost moral and lead the team with confidence and focus. But the rest of the team is just that, part of a team. They are expected to perform their functions on that team to the best of their ability, and follow the team structure set up by the coach. They are trained to follow. Individual performance sports however, do not teach this skill as such. Trainees are still taught to follow and trust the coach, but the act of standing alone under pressure and following your own plan is what translates more closely to those skills of a leader.
Individual performance sports like martial arts, gymnastics, and various track and field events force the trainee to stand alone, to fight alone, and to perform alone. Decisions must be made by you and only you in the moment. If you fail, it is on your shoulders, and if you succeed, that too is your success alone. This creates a deep sense of self confidence and self reliance. It instills the knowledge that one is capable of acting alone against challenging circumstances. This is one of the most important things to learn in adult life.
So while team sports offer a lot of benefits to athletes in terms of social networking, team work and sportsmanship, individual performance sports should not be overlooked as great development tools for a strong, capable and confident adult, and one who is capable of standing and acting alone in accordance with their values and beliefs.