As all new years begin, resolutions are created. So, as the fall semester approached this year, a few friends and I made a resolution to be more physically active this semester. Whether it was to walk more, bike, run or attend cycling and yoga classes, we planned to encourage each other to see this resolution through.

With the intention to be a more active human, when I heard the news that my housemates were deciding to form an intramural soccer team in the non-competitive league, I jumped at the chance to join. The last time I played soccer was in sixth grade when everyone made the team. I didn’t make the team the following year in seventh grade because I kept tripping over my feet during the scrimmage game in tryouts. This would be a great shot for my second try where I could be active and put myself outside of my comfort zone.

I have never called myself an athlete, but I have always tried my best because I love being a part of a team. Arriving at our first game, I could feel butterflies in my stomach walking toward the field of players. My team of housemates began warming up and passing the ball back and forth with skill and finesse. I was shocked by their abilities, energy and talent. I soon realized that most have played soccer competitively and our team of competitors shared these characteristics as well.

In general, competitive sports have an ability to bond people. People could have nothing in common, but with a ball and a net, individuals from drastically different lives can share a common goal wanting their team to win. To me, framing sports in this light makes athleticism sound quite beautiful. And there I see the greatness in this team camaraderie and lessons individuals can learn from group cooperation. But this doesn’t mean competitive sports are for everyone.

The game began and I was on the sidelines, anxiously hoping there was some way I didn’t have to sub for someone who was in. But with time, one of my teammates wanted some time to rest, and I tied up my borrowed cleats and ran in. My time on the field was a blur. My heart beat out of my chest as I ran up and down the field. I think I may have made contact with the ball once or twice. When the half was over, I was happy to go back on the sidelines.

When the game ended, I honestly felt traumatized by this small experience. I know that may sound dramatic. Looking around at my smiling teammates who gained so much joy from their time on the field, I reflected on my own feelings of panic and anxiety. At this point, I knew this wasn’t the right activity for me.

I spent the next week after the game hoping there was a way I didn’t have to play again. Luckily enough, I found myself with a horrible ingrown toenail from wearing borrowed cleats that were just too tight. With this strong excuse, I knew I would be able to sit out and not play. Sharing this news with my teammates, I felt a rush of embarrassment. I felt like I failed myself and the team. I didn’t want to leave my team at a disadvantage, but I knew playing again would only make me feel worse.

Normally, I find I’m a group-oriented thinker, but in this case, I found that I needed to do what was best for myself. And I think overall this was better for the team. I still showed up to our games and drove a car full of teammates to the field. I even had a friend fill in for me and play very last minute. This way, I wasn’t putting myself in a situation that made me feel too uncomfortable because in that space one cannot grow.

In an effort to try new things and be active, I ended up feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I don’t think this feeling is necessary to be an active, social person. Since this event, I have been throwing myself into non-competitive physical activities like yoga and bike rides. Here I can still hold up my resolution and do it on my own terms.

It is important to remember we all have different skills that we bring into our group and team dynamics. I have found myself in similar settings in course group projects as well. A group relies on the strength of its individuals who are there for each other. In my projects where my group members cared for and valued each others’ ideas, skills and time, the group performed better and had better outcomes. If everyone makes an effort to think about the group first, the group will have a good outcome.

This indicates that we are only as strong as the strength of the individuals who make up our groups and teams. When we form this trust with our group members, we must do this with ourselves as well. When we know everyone is looking out for one another, the team trusts that you will take the time and energy for self-care. These group dynamics are complex, but with folks who care, it can truly make an impact for everyone involved.

Ellery Rosenzweig can be reached at erosenz@umich.edu.

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