Competition can be fun, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it. Organized sports teach people a handful of valuable life lessons. However, many people are driven away at a young age from sports by the fierce nature of competition.
Sometimes the outcome of a game isn’t the point — the exercise and social experience is much more valuable. Recreational sports are occasionally spoken of condescendingly, due to their non-competitive and light hearted nature, but they are just as valuable and healthy as a competitive sport can be (sometimes moreso).
Let’s evaluate recreational and non-competitive sports, and talk about the social and physical benefits of them.
Some people thrive best working out on equipment at their local gym, with routines designed to make them strong and healthy. Other people find there to be too much monotony with exercise machines, and crave a bit of variety. Sports offer a way for people to work out and express themselves freely, without the redundancy that some may find in more traditional gym activities.
The sports people tend to find the most value in for recreational exercise are: rowing, tennis, squash, racket ball, boxing, swimming, and cycling. At one point, Forbes had labeled squash as the best in terms of four exercising categories: cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility (as reported by Livestrong.com). All of these activities may be done competitively but don’t have to be. In fact, it may be better to use a fitness wearables and compete with yourself as opposed to another player. Some of these wearables can keep records of your time spent, the steps you took, and the calories you burned so you’re more focused on your personal bests than a game score.
Before moving on, we should also mention that with sports there is a value to working out your mind. Gym machines don’t always test your reflexes or your mental reflexes. There’s a “surprise” factor to many sports, something you cannot control, that teaches you to be sharp as well as strong.
Local rec leagues for things like baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey are great for meeting people. As adults get into their mid twenties and beyond, many of them begin playing sports in such rec leagues to meet new people and get regular social interaction while exercising.
This is another reason parents try to incorporate their children into sports at a young age. The proper equipment and environment can encourage physical activity for fun at a very young age, as well as help grow social skills. The noncompetitive nature of sports for children enables them to grow as interconnected human beings, whereas sometimes the pressure of competition from coaches may overshadow the fun later in life and cause them to quit.
Not all sports are group sports, of course. But just about any sport can involve activity with other people if it doesn’t by default. For instance, skateboarders often ride around in packs, although the sport itself is not a group sport.
The line between competitive sports and recreational sports is without a doubt blurry at times. Shooting hoops, going to a driving range, and recreational swimming are all technically an aspect of competitive sports but are not in themselves competitive. Additionally, a fun one-on-one game of tennis with a friend could be hitting the ball back and forth without keeping score. Or maybe you like to keep score but don’t value it beyond the moment of the game.
You know what’s mentally healthy for you and you know what level of competition you are comfortable with. Just consider that competitive sports, although fun and of great value, are not the only way such activities can enrich your life.
Whether you rock climb, swim, cycle, or play a traditional ball sport, the benefits reach far beyond the scoreboard. How have recreational sports impacted your life? Let us know in the comments below!