PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Being a sports fan opens up a world of common ground to make connections with other people and enrich your life way beyond the sport that brings you together.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought on an increase in loneliness.
Being shut in raised the numbers, and while they're recovering a bit, still almost half of adult respondents say they are or at times feel lonely -- but did you know that sports can help with this?
The title of an upcoming book says it all: 'Fans Have More Friends.'
In the stands at virtually every game, you can see people happy.
"Because they tap into the Social Engine, the connectivity engine that is that is sports fandom," said Ben Valenta, author of the upcoming book.
This doesn't all just revolve around winner, either.
Whether it's related to celebrating or commiserating, you reap the benefits just the same, according to Valenta.
Valenta and his co-author Dave Sikorjak have reviewed studies and have done a slew of their own research about the personal impact of being a sports fan.
"Ultimately, what matters most is not what's happening on the field between the lines, but what's happening in the stands or in the living room amongst the people that you're with. You want to feel a part of something and you want to be connected to those people around you that you care most about," Valenta said.
Valenta says it's especially important for anyone who feels lonely or disconnected, or is looking for any kind of a human connection.
"That's what fandom provides. That's what sports provide you is the ability to connect," Valenta said.
As long as you have a pulse, no other human differences matter.
"The one area of difference is that the women actually benefit from fandom more than the men," Valenta said.
In fact, Valenta says their research reveals that the most connected people on the planet with the most friends are engaged female sports fans.
The teams do the work for you, developing a fanbase, and your only requirement is to engage.
"Nothing else exists at the scale of sports. And because of that, it can generate so many more social connections. And I think if we recognize that as fans, we can really lean into the power and take advantage of that power to benefit our own lives," Valenta said.
From professional, collegiate, high school, and local sports, there are always activities going on that you or your kids can get involved in, but Valenta is not saying you necessarily have to play the sports.
Just join in the fun around a team. You don't even have to understand the sport!
Valenta says this all applies to children as well, and he, like most parents, always worried about his kids making friends.
"Giving them the tool of sports fandom just enables their social lives. It greases the skids as it were to make more friends," Valenta said.
Valenta says this isn't just for younger kids.
"Reliably teens who are our fans have more friends than teens who are not fans and not just that they're they're happier. They're better able to cope with anxiety, and they do better in school," Valenta said.
Adults reap many of those same benefits as well, coping with anxiety and doing better in work and life, so try and get your kids engaged in fandom at an early age.
For more information about the book, click here.
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