The Relationship between Sports and Relationships
By Joe Ulm
I received a call earlier this week from someone I coached with nearly fifteen years ago. We became friends through coaching, and our friendship remained strong for years after our time coaching together had passed. When a new job took him across the country, we talked less and less until many years passed since our last conversation. There was never an issue between us – life just seemed to pile up the years. When I hung up the phone an hour after his recent call, I found myself smiling because even after so many years, our friendship was mostly unchanged. It hadn’t diminished at all – it had just become less frequent.
I didn’t play soccer growing up – my passion for soccer came later in life. Soccer has since become my favorite sport, but growing up, it was football. I played middle linebacker and through my high school years, I lined up play after play next to the other middle linebacker, Treg. Treg and I ran in different social circles back then, but through our time on the field, we developed a unique bond. Although we never became close friends, the bond was evident whenever we ran across each other through our college years, and even into our twenties. It’s probably been 20 years since I last spoke to Treg, but I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that the bond still exists. It certainly does for me.
I see these same bonds and friendships being built between our players at PSU; the way they work together at practice, their communication during games, and how certain players always find themselves next to each other on the sidelines. I see it with our parents, too. Sideline conversations foster an invite to a cookout or a birthday party which fosters another invite. Soon, entire families have become friends.
The narratives we hear in youth sports often revolve around the best way our kids can develop sport-specific skills, what team or organization wins the most, or the many ways youth sports could be better. These are important and valuable narratives, and they should continue. However, of the many values youth sports provide, the ones that last beyond our playing careers are the most valuable. And of those, the relationships we develop through our playing careers may be at the top of the list.
Stay United, everyone.