Op-Ed: Why I Play Sports for Fun


Ella B.

My friend Holly and me at the Prep League finals for Track and Field. I placed 3rd in discus.

I have been playing sports for as long as I can remember. So long that I can’t recall a single weekend from the ages of six to thirteen where I wasn’t hustling to a soccer game or a swim meet. Whether it be AYSO recreational soccer or volleyball in the park, playing sports has been an integral, formative part of my identity.

As a Westridge student, it’s rare to find students who play a sport for fun, let alone multiple. Many students join a school sports team to fulfill the three-year Physical Education requirement, and others have played one sport for so long that they feel an obligation to continue. But for me, I simply play for fun. 

For a long time, I was so passionate that having fun was secondary to winning in my respective sports. But, as I progressed as an athlete and started to lose more frequently, I discovered that enjoying sports was the best thing I could do for my well-being. While it feels great, winning does not have to be the defining aspect of playing a sport. There is so much more that comes with catching a softball, throwing a shot, diving into a pool, or swinging at a golf ball than just winning. There is a sense of community, pride, and joy. 

Me attempting a backwards putt in golf. On this shot, I finally succeeded. (Ella B.)

It is disappointing to realize that for a long time, I was a selfish athlete who was not a great teammate. But as I grew older and realized winning was not everything, I learned how to work with a team and even find friends in that team. I think this shift occurred after my first time on Varsity Soccer as a freshman. We won a whopping three games that season. Other teams reached 8, 9, and even 10 goals while we were struggling to score just one. Because I played with almost exclusively club-experienced players, and was one of the least experienced on the field, it occurred to me that I should not take things so seriously. At the high school level, I was no longer good at soccer, so there was no reason for me to be so upset about losing. Being one of the worst players on the field showed me a different perspective, and I mellowed out. 

Not only did this new mindset make playing sports a lot more pleasant, but my newfound teamwork skills translated to other aspects of my life. I became a more thoughtful leader in group projects, I reached out to people looking alone, and I made myself a more humble person. And just that alone made playing sports all the more fulfilling. 

As my mindset towards playing sports shifted, I took every opportunity to hop onto the playing field, no matter my skill level. In my freshman year of high school, I was a member of the golf, soccer, swim, and track and field teams, three of which I played Varsity for. I enjoyed it so much that I joined again in my sophomore year. Whenever I mention to someone that I play four sports, their typical reaction is, “What? How? Why?” or “Wow!” and sometimes even “You need to focus yourself.” And to that I say, “I’m just out here having fun.”

Often when I explain that I don’t want to focus on just one sport, I’m met with some disappointment from my coaches. They don’t seem to understand why I would want to play so many sports. While dedicating myself to seeking glory in one sport could be appealing in another life, for the state I am in right now, it just would not work. If I were to dedicate myself to one sport, then it becomes solely about winning—that’s not what I want. The feeling of winning is amazing, but the feeling of joy is even greater. 

I have fun laughing with my team about how miserably horrible we are. I have fun sprinting 100 meters until I fall to the floor with a choking fit. I have fun when I reach swimming 80 laps for the day. It’s the combination of all of these experiences that forms my love for all things sports. 

From the elegance of a perfect golf swing to the intricacy of each swim stroke, everything about sports is beautiful to me. The excitement of a goal, the team camaraderie, the support after a loss, and the sense of purpose I feel—it all keeps me coming back. When I focus on all of those aspects instead of just winning, I stay grounded and present in the moment. While I will never be a NCAA athlete, I know I will continue to play sports for the rest of my life. I will play for one sole purpose: to have fun.