Despite different appearances, team sports and individualistic sports have much in common

Safin Khatri

While more than eight million high school athletes compete this year, many of those, including students on teams like tennis, cross-country and track and field, participate in sports that have more of a focus on individual performances. However, some athletes see a component of teamwork in these sports. According to Jonathan Yang, tennis player and junior, the team dynamics of individualistic sports like his, are in fact comparable to team sports, they are just structured differently. 

“Team dynamics might be thought of as more individualistic, but it’s really not,” he said. “Each person has a role on the team, whether it be a higher or lower position and each of us contributes an equal amount of importance to the team.”

Yang also said although the team may not play together on the court, their cohesion has a great impact. 

“Whenever one of our players plays well, the whole team benefits (as) we all get more excited, and our intensity increases,” he said.

Tennis Head Coach Dan Brunette said the individualistic structure of sports like tennis challenges players to create team cohesion, and successful teams have team cohesion. 

“It’s difficult because tennis, outside of the two-and-a-half, three-month season, realistically is individualistic where you are practicing on your own and playing in large clinics with kids from a lot of different schools and then traveling around the central Indiana area as well as the Midwest tournaments by yourself,” Brunette said. “So once the season starts, it is a complete flip of the switch where you are competing for yourself and your spot on the team, as well as being expected to be a teammate, and that adds a little bit of pressure, as you have to compete to the best of your ability while at the same time you have to be a supportive teammate and understand that you are not the sole person that is going to get all the attention.”

However, not all athletes agreed that the dynamics of high school individualistic sports and team sports are similar. Bethany Ducat, varsity soccer player and senior, said she believes the dynamics of team-oriented sports like soccer are different with achieving team goals and scoring systems.

“I would say that team sports such as soccer do have more team chemistry, because you are all working as one cohesive group while in tennis it’s more of an individual sport, and you aren’t fighting for that rank, of number one or two,” she said. “But in soccer there are 11 players on the field at all times and you are all focusing on working together to reach your goals.” 

Although Yang and Ducat share different views, they both said that in every sport all the players have their own identity and role in the team, with the overall goal of being the most successful team possible and ultimately winning the State Championship. Yang said he believes that team sports such as soccer do have individual roles and positions similar to tennis. 

“Team sports like basketball have their own roles —for example center, forwards, and guards— each person on the team has their own role, whether it be freshmen, JV or varsity team,” Yang said. 

Junior and tennis player Jonathan Yang walks alongside his doubles partner, junior Braedon McIntyre during the match against North Central on Sept. 1. Yang explained how although an individual sport, tennis involves a lot of team cooperation. (Chase Thorpe)

Additionally, Yang, Ducat and Brunette stressed the importance of team bonding events. 

“In order for a team to find success, especially in tennis, a team has to have an identity,” Brunette said. “I stress a lot of activities where the entire team are together, and I make sure everyone on the team knows each other’s names. We do pasta parties where guys on the team go and eat a bunch of food and play bags and cornhole or kickball, and I encourage guys to get together outside of practice to organically foster a team feeling, and then when we go to matches, everyone stays for the entire time, and cheers each other on.” 

Ducat said soccer also does a lot of group bonding and activities.

“We do a lot of activities such as team sleepovers and pasta nights, so we do different kinds of dinners and activities like that,” she said. “Sometimes in practice we will sit down in leadership groups, and the leadership groups will go around and talk to each of the different teams, and we speak to them about how their day is going, how their school year is going, anything we can do to help each other out, and help each other off an on the field.” 

In the end, for Yang and many other tennis players, sports like tennis are as much a team sport as soccer or basketball are. 

He said, “Everyone (on the team) has a team mindset and a winning mindset.”

Ali Persinger