We all have our favorite sports teams, the games we can’t miss and certain players who we consider our heroes. For many, it’s more than a pastime. Sports fandom often becomes a way of life, even completely taking over one’s schedule at particular points in the year.

Around the world, we can’t get enough of sports. Whether your game is baseball, basketball, football, soccer or something else entirely, in every country, there’s swaths of fans like you turning up to every event to cheer on their team. We rally around the sports that matter most to us, the teams we feel most connected to, and the individual athletes that most deserve our loyal fandom.

What does the fandom we create around our top athletes have to do with who we are? Why do we become passionate fans of particular players in the first place?

What Feeds Into Our Fandom

For the most part, sports fandom is a community activity. This can be seen in the ways that we come to choose our favorite team. We begin watching games with our family and learn to root for the team that Mom, Dad, and Grandpa all love or we attend the home games in our hometown and cheer with the rest of our local community. You may move later on in life, but most of us don’t switch teams without the pull of some real connection. You always stay with the team that represents home and that community to which you have the greatest connection.

This is why, when fans cheer, they often aren’t just there in support of those on the field. We cheer in celebration of our communities which unite us in a group unlike any other.

Part of why we so passionately join into sports fandom may be because, as humans, we crave that sense of belonging in a community. You’re never alone when you’re in a crowd of fans wearing the same colors as you. Surrounded by similar fans is like being wrapped up in the closest of familial ties, and this bond with fellow fans has some pretty positive psychological impacts.

Being a sports fan may be more than putting enthusiasm into something you enjoy. It can be an essential component of your psychological well-being, and it often goes much deeper than a sports game.

Feeling a Part of the Action

For the truly dedicated sports fan, it is more than a game. Your fandom can become a huge part of who you are, even overtaking your schedule without eliciting a single complaint.

Why shouldn’t we revel in the thrill of grouping up to cheer on a favorite team? It’s something you love, a place where you can find community and an activity capable of providing meaning into your life.

Sure, you may not be playing yourself, but when the investment gets that deep, it can almost feel like you are. Do your passionate cheers not equate to real sports participation? For many fans, it can really seem like they do, as the bond of sports fandom connects us to every win and every loss.

It’s as Eric Simon says when he states “a sports team is an expression of a fan’s sense of self.” There is a real bond that forms between sports fan and athletic performer, one that can be strong enough to make us feel like we’re as much a part of the action on the field.

This association of ourselves with our sports teams is a well-researched psychological fact, which may have something to do with a desire for an easy, external source of positive self-esteem. The athletic pressure to perform is not on us, but on the athletes doing the job. Yet, we get the ability to bask in the glory after wins while cutting ourselves out of the picture in the case of failures.

What we do as sports fans when we put all our expectations onto the success of athletes is human. After all, we all want to be on the winning side.

What’s important to remember is that athletes are human, too.

Our Human Connection with Athletes

What our athletic fandom really shows us about ourselves is what it is to be human. We crave community and belonging. We long to find meaning in our lives. We want the boost to our self-esteem that winning can bring.

Athletes want all of these things, too. Athletes are human beings like us. When we’re putting all our human wants and desires onto them in the form of expectations and pressures, perhaps we forget this.

Yet perhaps this is the greatest lesson of all that our favorite athletes can teach us: what it means to be human.

What You Learn About Yourself from Being a Sports Fan

Does being a sports fan give you a sense of purpose or is it simply a way to connect with others in your community? What does this part of your life really mean for you, on a deeper level?

There are true psychological benefits to participating in an athletic following as a fan. It may now be time to consider what you can learn about yourself through who you are as a sports fan.

A double-board certified child, adolescent, adult and sports psychiatrist, Dr. Dawn Kamilah Brown, is a best-selling author, content creator and keynote/corporate speaker. She is also the Founder and CEO of Mental Healthletics and serves as the company’s sports psychiatrist for elite (and retired) athletes of college and national sports organizations. She is also the founder and CEO of the ADHD Wellness Center and has two private practice locations in Texas.