Why sports is important to friendships between men

Craig discusses the significance that sports has on societal norms when men form and sustain friendships.

Written by Craig Doyle

Last Updated: Feb-21-24


The friendships with men that I have in my life are some of the most important relationships that I currently enjoy.

There are many ideals of masculinity presented to young men in society such as the need to be aggressive, competitive, and acquire a steadfast amount of strength.

I believe these ideals can greatly impact a person’s view of themselves, as well as their ability to develop meaningful, genuinely close friendships with other men. This is because the vulnerability often needed to develop these relationships can be seen to suggest weakness, something so many men are scared to be seen as displaying.

I find that to understand friendships between men, two aspects need to be discussed; being the terms used to describe these types of friendships and the important role sports can play in friendships between men.

The role of sports in friendships between men

Sports is an outlet for all people to socialise, exercise, and provide balance in their lives. Although people of all identities enjoy sports, sports have often become a safe space for men to perform to the ideal of masculinity that has been presented to them.

The features of aggression, competitiveness, and strength are presented in sports. Sports provide a unique place for men to think about and develop their masculinity.

Paternal validation through sports

For many men, the love of sports goes back to childhood. Sports provided them, as young boys and teens, with a reason to get together, to engage with other men.

This link is often introduced to young men through their fathers, as a tradition passed down from generation to generation. For many young men, their relationship with their father can rely on their shared interest in sports. It becomes a common ground, a constantly evolving topic of discussion that can seemingly never get stale, and an opportunity to connect on a closer level.

As sports are often introduced from a young age, sports may become the outlet where young men can gain their father’s approval and validation.

This remains throughout a man’s life, and many see sport and athleticism as the only way they can make their father proud, which is an important accomplishment for many men to achieve.

Physical affection in friendships between men

Sports allow validation, yet I find they also allow physical affection.

When in a non-sports setting, men’s greetings often consist of an elaborate handshake, a fist bump, or the handshake into a hug combo which always leaves some room for confusion.

However, when sport is involved, I find this confusion is erased, and physical affection becomes more apparent and simpler.

Sporting celebrations are often met with hugging, whether you’re scoring the goal or merely watching your team score alongside the other fans.

Physical connection is rare for many men outside of sport. From personal experience, there are lads on the rugby team who would be hesitant to give more than a fist bump to another lad, who would immediately hug everyone in sight upon hearing the final whistle. This is why I think sport acts as one of the best outlets for friendships between men to flourish, whether that be organised sport, or merely a game of football at lunchtime in school.

On the other hand, sports can also act as a blocker to men’s development outside of that specific environment, as many don’t associate physical affection as acceptable or normal outside of it. There is a certain image that many sportspeople feel like they need to live up to and to show affection outside the sporting environment would be seen as going against that image. However, I find if we can incorporate the affectionate aspects of sport into our daily lives. We’ll be able to experience the rewards on a more continuous basis, as opposed to only when we’re on the pitch.

Being weak is one of the bravest things people can do, and although sports often involves being tough, it can allow people to be weak. This aspect shouldn’t be shied away from, or ignored, it should be applauded.

Missing a penalty, missing a free, or losing a big match, can make people feel weak, however, people should not be afraid to show this weakness and look for support from their teammates. I believe that being comfortable enough to be weak together is one of the biggest strengths a team can possess.

I’ve played countless matches over the years, and of course, there are certain score lines which remain in my head, certain moments that I can’t forget, but those all seem secondary when I consider the friendships I was able to make, and the moments we were all able to share.

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