By ANNIE BRONFMAN
There is a phenomenon on our small campus wherein athletes travel in packs. Their schedules are filled with rushed meals before practices and crammed homework sessions after, making it easier to stick together. We all live in close proximity, and with the Block Plan, we have similar schedules to most of our peers. So how does this differ from regular college friendships?
When people spend as much time together as teammates do, that becomes what they know, and often other friendships fall to the wayside simply due to scheduling. We all have support systems for our own sanity, but teammates seem to develop different kinds of bonds.
The men’s lacrosse team and men’s hockey team will often be seen pairing up and taking classes together to guarantee a study buddy and companion in class. Many parties on campus are thrown at athletes’ homes, and you will hardly ever see a member of a team flying solo at a party anywhere else on campus. The difference between NARP friendships and athlete friendships would thus appear to be the levels of dependence.
Such intense group dynamics foster great life skills such as comradery and equitable teamwork, but they are also breeding grounds for codependence. This would seem to make building support systems in the real world more of a challenge for an athlete, simply on the basis that they had a built-in circle of friends and confidants—never needing to venture out in search of support. There may also be a lack of confrontational skills amongst members of some teams who have to see each other every day and thus let little grievances slide. This also implies that individuals who may have unhealthy relationships within a team setting will have more difficulty removing themselves from toxic situations. While this isn’t the case for many athletes and can be seen in many “regular” social situations as well, it is far easier to take a step back from a friend group than a team without giving up commitments to an often lifelong practice and love.
So athletes, take a look at your group of friends—are they fulfilling your emotional needs? Are they supportive and kind? If your needs aren’t being met, find some “NARPs” or someone not on your team who can help fill any emotional gaps: people that can be objective when your teammates are experiencing conflict, or who can just listen without feeling they need to get involved. I can guarantee that us “regular” folk need those people, too—breaks from our immediate social circles and more diverse peers are always good.