[I’m Not] A Team Player

The thought of being a team player, in regards to sports, terrifies me. I played soccer in third grade, and I remember being petrified of having to be on the field. I remember fiercely praying Hail Mary’s – I’d give Her anything, do anything, as long as the soccer ball didn’t come my way.

As you can imagine, I often had a bone to pick with the Virgin Mary after each game.

In middle school I awkwardly played basketball. I once made a basket –  in my own team’s basket. I was so flustered when I got the ball that I hadn’t remembered that we just switched baskets after halftime.

But then in high school I found swimming. Swimming is a team sport, but not really. The swim team offered me true camaraderie, but it was void of the fear of anyone passing me the ball. When it was my heat, I dove into the water with five other girls, but I was truly racing against myself.

In the pool, I was graceful. I was smooth and fluid, unlike my spastic movements of attempting to run and keep up with girls on the court or field.

And nothing could beat the moment when I’d breathlessly smack my hand against the finishing wall and look up to the timers, hoping to hear that I beat my best time.

And that’s what I’ve now found in running. I’m not yet smooth and graceful, but it has given me another chance to compete against myself.

If you’re someone like me, and you prefer to compete against yourself, you know that it is possible to lose. When you lose against yourself, you know it feels more disappointing than losing to someone else. But when you win, it’s a victory to cherish.

Let’s chat – Are you a team competitor or a personal competitor?



  1. says

    I played tennis and golf in high school, and I really liked both because I could win/lose individually and not worry so much about letting down a team! Even though our individual scores counted for the team winning/losing, I didn’t feel as pressured to perform for the team like I did with soccer or softball!

  2. says

    I am definitely a competitor – team and personal, because I get excited and I can’t help getting really into sports I am playing. That being said, I am right there with you. I am really awkward around sports with balls. I get flustered. I have terrible hand-eye coordination. So even if I want to be good, no matter how hard I try, I’m just not. I’m awkward.
    So individual sports with NO BALLS are better for me! And this is also why I have really enjoyed running lately. Not that I’m good at it, but I’m not awkward and flustered.

  3. says

    I can actually kinda relate to your basketball story…I played for half a season in junior high because all of my friends played. I was so bad that when I finally ended up making a basket, EVERYONE (including fans of the other team) started cheering and clapping. Umm yeah…I think that was the last game I played! So, I agree…I definitely enjoy competing with myself :)

  4. says

    I’m NOT a team player. I spend most of the time apologizing for missing the ball. Honestly, I’d like to be a team player, but I just feel too awkward and clumsy most of the time. I like individual or small group activity-based exercise: hiking, kayaking, canoeing, cycling.

  5. says

    I agree 100%. I’m not a team player either, because I hate letting everyone down with my failure! I was in basketball for 1 year in my youth and I did even worse than you! I never even got a basket. In fact my coach felt so bad she made a whole play just to pass me the ball and i still EFFED it up and didn’t get a basket. Talk about dead weight 😉 Beating myself is way, way better.

  6. says

    I’m so glad you say that about swimming!

    It’s so interesting to me that many “team” sports have SO MUCH rivalry in them. my competitive nature is probably because of how hard I had to work to keep my position in field hockey. that team was every man (girl) for him(her)self… and it was brutal and totally anxiety-ridden.

    THEN, when I did track to just keep in shape for field hockey, the “team” atmosphere was so different. and in track, just like swimming, most events (save for relays) are individual. everyone was so supportive of one another, and I didn’t feel like I had to get in dogfights to keep my spot.

    weird, right? the sports in which you have to play “as a team” are the ones in which you don’t even have a great “team” environment.

  7. says

    I am definitely a personal competitor. I don’t play well with others. If it’s a game I’m not good at I fear others will get mad because I’m bringing the team down, but if it’s a game I’m good at I get mad at my teammates for bringing the team down! (I know, it’s mean and hypocritical…) But I do feel that relief in pushing myself to the next level and beating a personal record to be more of a victory than beating someone else.

  8. says

    I am completely opposite from you! I am totally in love with team sports. I started playing basketball in 2nd grade and played four years in college. I also ran track in high school, which was similar to swimming in that it was a “team sport” but not really. Stepping up to the blocks before a race was TERRIFYING to me. Knowing that it all depended on me and how I did made me want to puke. My favorite race in track was the 4×100 relay (because it was a team race!) In bball I knew that even if I was having a bad game my teammates could help me out and we could still win the game. In track, if I sucked…I sucked.

  9. says

    I am definitely a personal competitor..I love reading your stories about playing team sports in middle and elementary school haha I was also that girl. When I played soccer in Kindergarten I was the girl doing cart wheels down the field..and when I played in 3rd grade I scored ONE goal because the goalie tripped and fell and when the ball was literally right next to the net I just pushed it in. I attempted to play soccer throughout middle school but i HATED it and would PRAY the ball would not come my way..so ya I’m definitely not the sports type..I prefer dancing and working out

  10. says

    I’m a team player, well most of the time. I swam competitively from 7th-11th grade! I loved it… yes it’s an individual sport but it’s also a team sport! That’s what i loved about it!

  11. says

    it is great to just compete against yourself! I grew up playing team sports, but I still love my triathlon and running and just beating my own records! you are so a runner :)

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