by Alana Patrick
St. Olaf College
Step into any college athletic center and you're likely to encounter a sweaty smorgasbord of activities: teams of varsity athletes train along the sidelines of intramural dodgeball games, and the screech of a student referee whistle is heard just as often as the bellow of an official-looking coach.
Somewhere amidst all the sticky bustle lies the beauty of college sports: the fact that different levels of competition (varsity, club, and intramural) allow anyone to compete. But while some of these levels require certain skill and commitment, all produce similar benefits for the student participating. So, if you're considering joining a sport, or even if you're already involved, read on. The benefits of playing sports in college stretch far beyond the confines of an athletic center.
College sports allow you to...
1. Make connections
Team sports especially are a great way to meet new people -- what better way to make friends than by being part of a group working together toward a common goal? In particular, being a part of a varsity team has a way of producing close camaraderie among teammates. Between spending so much time together, sharing a passion for the sport you play, and riding the emotional roller coaster that is wins and losses, you are likely to form deeper friendships with your teammates than with anyone else at college. On the other hand, club and intramural teams have certain benefits that many varsity teams don't: notably, the setting is more casual, and teams are often co-ed.
2. Get in shape
Bored of the treadmill? Lacking the motivation to go to the gym at all? Playing a sport is an easy cure for the workout blues. By focusing on the competition at hand, instead of the tortuous "calories burned" meter on that stair-stepper, you are able to stay healthy and have fun doing it! Who knew?
3. Discover and deepen passions
Ever had the urge to pick up bocce ball? Ever wondered what bocce ball even is? The breadth of intramural sports allows you to find and develop new interests that you might not discover elsewhere. Meanwhile, the depth of the varsity sports encourages you to hone and perfect the skills you already possess.
4. Be a better student
While joining the sand volleyball team won't magically give you an A in Chemistry, playing a sport does help reduce stress, research suggests. Sometimes all it takes is getting active to get rid of that writer's block or re-energize yourself for a night of note-taking. Additionally, playing a sport teaches valuable time management skills that allow you to make the most of those blocks set aside for strictly studying.
5. Get hired
Potential employers recognize the lessons that sports teach: in particular, time management, a competitive mindset, and the ability to communicate within a team. Want the next leg up? Become a captain. The leadership experience will look great on a resume.
Ultimately, playing sports is about having fun. Join a sport that interests you; join because you want to. The benefits will surely follow.