Updated: Apr 21, 2022
Brotherhood/sisterhood can be forged through sport. Contributing to the strength of these human relationships are feelings and attitudes like empathy, competition, and compassion. Those feelings are mediated by neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin.
During social contact between humans (and some animals) some of these substances are secreted to create relationships. It’s associated with things like youth gangs, female sisterhoods, motorcycle groups or animal herds. During exercise, these substances are secreted as well. This creates a synergism, exposing athletes to greater amounts of these substances, reinforcing the effect to create stronger relationships.
Athletes engaged in team sports like football, swimming, basketball or exercise in groups like cycling and running groups tend to create stronger human relationships than athletes who exercise individually.
Youth and junior athletes also experience greater socialization and social feelings from training in teams and groups. This would help young athletes in other aspects of their lives like school and work in the future.
Our swimming group has a median age of 46. We all began to swim together at age 5 and remained together for 15 years. We spent our childhood, adolescence and early adulthood swimming, performing long workouts - old school - peaking up to 18,000 meters a day, three workouts per day, and cross-training with running, baseball, soccer and dancing!
We lived together throughout our physical, psychological and physiological changes.
During childhood before workouts, we talked about superheroes, Star Wars, and the Dukes of Hazzard.
When we got older our chats correlated with the workout. We chatted innocently and at length during the long aerobic kick sets about girls and our first dance parties that we attended together. The intensity of the chat increased with the main set, shifting to anaerobic: short sentences, competitive endorphin-secreting chats. “You can´t follow me!” “I pitch faster” “I won this set!” “You are a turtle!”
It was the moment when endorphins and other substances reached their peak, helping us to not feel pain and producing a state of mental excitation.
The intensity of the conversations dropped with the cool-down phase of the workout and was mainly to check in on movies or our favorite football or soccer team schedules.
It was the same history day by day for 15 years, similar to the Groundhog Day movie.
Our last workout was almost 27 years ago. Some of the members have not seen each other for 10 to 20 years.
A few days ago, we were informed that one of our team members is fighting against a very aggressive pancreatic cancer with liver, lung and bone metastasis and suffering heavy pain treated with morphine and requiring oxygen for his dyspnea.
The first reaction of the team was to schedule a group visit to our old friend. For some of the team members, it was quite a long trip – 600 miles for me, 1000 for another. When we first saw him, nobody said, “how are you?” instead everybody said “hey, what´s up? Bro” and our relationship resumed immediately as if our last swimming workout was yesterday.
Our meeting was like our former workouts, we chatted about superheroes, the new Stars Wars and Dukes of Hazzard movies and our favorite soccer team results. The main set was to bully each other, remembering our first dates with girls, producing sonorous peals of laughter – a secretor of endorphins. Our friend laughed the most. The cool-down was the preparation for the next meeting in the next days.
After two hours our friend didn´t require morphine or supplementary oxygen and his pain was significantly less. He thanked us for the visit and said that it helped him to feel better physically and mentally.
At that moment I said thank you for that long, tiring swim workout and the neurotransmitter secretor that contributed to creating our Brotherhood.
Manuel Delgado Gaona, MD