In the world of sports, a subtle social hierarchy may exist among athletes on a team, emphasizing excellence. Falling short can affect an athlete’s ability to fit in on a team. As athletes navigate harmful criticism from teammates, the significance of positive communication and constructive criticism is made clear.
“The worst feeling is when there is a lot of pressure from your teammates and coaches,” said Samantha Lopatin, a Berkeley High School sophomore and tennis player. “You know you can perform well, but then something goes wrong … that makes it difficult to participate in your sport.” This balance between expectations and performance is a central theme in the dynamic aspect of sportsmanship.
Feeling the need to perform well for social acceptance can be overwhelming. The pressure and criticism that comes from one’s teammates can take two distinct paths. Constructive criticism, offering detailed negative feedback to support improvement, serves as a motivating force for athletes to correct mistakes and elevate their performance. “Being in BHS varsity soccer is stressful, as my teammates have high expectations on how you are supposed to perform,” said Allison Forbush, a sophomore. “I took the comments of pressure and used it to my advantage to become a better athlete.”
However, negative feedback without helpful suggestions for improvement can harm athletes. Passion for the sport may decrease as individuals struggle to fit in, facing scrutiny for every mistake. “My teammates are a very supportive group of people,” said Vincent Longmire, a sophomore on BHS’s wrestling team. “But sometimes I feel that if I lose a match, they will think I don’t have enough potential, which sort of creates more anxiety for me before a match.”
Being treated poorly by teammates can affect also affect students’ incentive to try to become a better player. It can be harder to improve how they play if they become overly conscious of their performance level.
“The social setting of a team can impact your passion as well,” said Forbush. “When certain people treat you differently than others, you can feel a sense of judgment towards you. This feeling discourages me from taking the risks I need to become a better player.” In a team dynamic, it’s important to learn from everyone and to work with different people.
Social hierarchy among teammates needs to be acknowledged, where those with greater skills often receive better treatment from their peers. As student-athletes navigate the intense pressures in sports, teammates using constructive criticism instead of destructive criticism can help guide their peers toward success. Constructive criticism is applied uniformly, fostering an environment of fairness and support for all members of a team.
Bonds made through understanding, encouragement, and support can become the driving force, propelling teams and individuals toward their fullest potential, both on and off the field.