If you could compile all of what it means to be an athletic team into one sport, what would that look like? Depending on what your definition of a team sport is, that could take form in a variety of ways.
Cooperation, diversity, depth and encouragement all factor into what it means to be a team. Working with each other to accomplish a common goal, accepting everyone’s different skills and abilities, having a wide range of talent and being supportive of all team members are crucial to the success of an athletic team.
In my experience as a collegiate runner, my definition of the ultimate team sport would be track and field.
(I’m going to be upfront in admitting my bias here, but it’s for the sake of proving a point.)
When most people think of track, they think of the running side of the sport. The hurdles, the relays, the daunting distance races. Everything that happens on the actual oval surface.
Although the track may be the most ‘central’ in terms of proximity, there’s a whole other world of competing that often times gets forgotten.
Jumping and throwing events are a true example of the strength that it takes to be a track and field athlete. Not only do these competitors need to be conditioned for the aerobic part of their job, but they also need to be precise in how they train so that they can execute their jumps and throws in a competition.
Track and field may seem like a compilation of many individual events, but in actuality it takes a tremendous amount of group effort in order to be successful.
Runners and fielders must cooperate with each other and show respect for the various disciplines of track and field, because without one, you can’t really have the other. Even in ancient Greece when track and field events were just taking form in competitions, there was emphasis on both running and throwing as a true test and skill of an athlete. So it’s essential that a track and field team be able to work together to accomplish their goals.
That being said, diversity on a team is needed. If everyone is good at only one thing, the team would not be able to prosper. Athletes have different strengths and weaknesses, and track and field uses that to its advantage. Athletes are placed in events and distances that they can excel in so that the team can get the most points in a competition. This is a way to give everyone the opportunity to contribute to the team’s success.
The depth of a team is also important. In track and field there’s not one person who supports the entire squad, but rather many individuals who can all compete. If one person has a bad day of racing, throwing or jumping, there’s always another person there to fill the gaps. And in that dependence, teammates work to push each other to get better in their respective event(s).
Lastly, track and field teammates encourage one another. This gets difficult some times when events have different arenas to compete in, so not everyone is able to be in the same place to cheer for each other. However, everyone wears the same jersey and contributes to the final score. And if the team wishes to continue to be successful, it’s important that every athlete encourages their teammates.
This isn’t to say that other sports don’t do this to any degree. I see all of these same qualities in any of the athletic teams at Simpson College. But where else can you find a sport that accommodates the skills and abilities of every athlete at any distance and a variety of throwing and jumping events? Where else can you simultaneously watch a 10k race, the javelin and pole vaulting? And where else can you find commrodary between athletes across such a wide spectrum of disciplines?
It’s in the mix of different events and skill levels that makes track and field unique to any other team sport, and so it gets my vote as being ‘the ultimate team sport.’