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My High School Sports Career DilemmaTeam or Individual Sports?
Written by Myungjae Han | Published. 2020.06.12 14:56 | Count : 419

I have often read written arguments and watched various sports personalities debate on television about the advantages and disadvantages of team sports compared to individual sports. Personally, I am heavily involved in both types at school and this debate has become a personal agenda that must be solved. Naturally, as I am entering high school in the new academic year, I will have to consider very carefully what extracurricular activities I can continue with while maintaining an acceptable GPA. Although I am torn between two very different sports that I have grown to love, I also know too well that I must make some difficult choices. I must accurately assess my own strengths, weaknesses and my personality and choose between swimming and basketball.

[Photo of the author participating in an individual sport]
[Photo of the author participating in a team sport]

There are many advantages in playing a team sport. A team sport can define someone in many ways that an individual sport cannot. To give a few examples, we are more likely to succeed in team sports if we achieve cooperation, teamwork, a sense of community, interpersonal skills, leadership and other very important social skills and strengths. By being part of a team, we can also make new friends and experience a real shared sense of accomplishment with teammates. I cannot think of a better example of the high one can feel in team sports than the time my school basketball team came third place in the HK Junior High School’s Basketball League. Although we suffered a devastating buzzer beater loss in the semifinals and we all cried, it was soon followed by high fives in the changing rooms celebrating our achievement together. The intense feeling of camaraderie was unforgettable. We were brothers. Furthermore, I learned and developed as a person serving as the captain of my school’s basketball and football teams.

[Photo of the author and his team winning
at a basketball tournament]

However, that is not to say that I did not have my frustrations when playing team sports. Despite the obvious positives, I also experienced moments when my team was not united in our focus and determination to win. A team is ultimately a group of individuals and unfortunately arguments are inevitable. For instance, I and some of the teammates were frustrated at others because their efforts did not meet our standards. The results were arguments and hurt feelings. Sometimes, a desperate individual desire can actually result in the teamwork breaking down at crucial moments in a match. In team sports, the breakdown of team spirit is an ever present danger. 

I have also found that individual sports offer a completely different attraction. In individual sports, everyone else is your competition, even your own teammates. This allows the athlete to gain mental strength, discipline and independence. Being a swimmer, I feel that I have matured hugely as a human being. I have had to wake up early, watch my diet, manage my own time and exercise self-control, without having any teammates to lean on or motivate me. Although at times my fight as an individual swimmer can be lonely, it has made me fully responsible for each of my successes and failures in the water.

[Photo of the author winning an award at swim contest]

However, competing alone is not easy. It is not easy to wake up at 5am in the morning 3 hour training sessions to constantly push yourself for that little extra bit, and to suck it up and push through injuries. However, I have grown to truly love this personal battle. 

[Photo of the author interviewing the coach of swimming team at The Kellett School]

Our swim coach, Linh Carpenter, has a slightly different take: “There is both an individual and team aspect in swimming. As a swimming coach, it is my responsibility to make every swimmer better. Only when we work with every swimmer can our school’s overall results improve”. 

From speaking to Linh, I realized that although in individual sports you are alone when you compete, you can still be part of the greater ‘team’. You are surrounded by your teammates and coaches that will push you and each other to get better.

Coach Carpenter is right. Swimming allows me to enjoy the best of both worlds. I am competing for my personal best time, but I am also a proud member of my school’s swimming team. For these reasons, I have decided that from next year, outside of the classroom, my focus will be on becoming the best swimmer I can be, both to achieve my personal best time and to help Kellett School’s team of swimmers improve together.



Myungjae Han
Year 10 (Grade 9)
The Kellett School, Hong Kong

Myungjae Han  student_reporter@dherald.com

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