Addiction often leaves suffers feeling powerless and isolated, making it vital to develop a social support network early on in recovery. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a social network that provides love, hope, friendship, and support is central to successful recovery. Sober team sports can expand your social support network, providing opportunities to develop healthy relationships with other like-minded people.

The benefits of sober team sports don’t end there. Team sports offer a variety of benefits for people in early recovery. Here are five far-reaching benefits of joining a sports team.

1. Improved social skills.

Playing with a sports team requires participants to use communication, problem-solving and leadership skills. Being a successful team member requires cooperation and trust. This collaboration often requires putting the needs of the team above your own needs. These skills can be a challenge for people in recovery. Playing on a team allows people to practice these skills and hone them for use in a life of sobriety.

2. A sense of belonging.

Isolation and loneliness in recovery are frequently triggers for relapse. A sense of belonging, on the other hand, satisfies our most innate need for human interaction and acceptance. Sober team sports can fulfill that sense of belonging. Team members often go out of their way to prop each other up and cheer each other on. Team members are an integral part of a whole, and this feeling of belonging is a powerful antidote to substance abuse.

3. Increased physical exercise.

According to an article published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, exercise is a major part of self-care, which is essential for successful recovery. Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals that reduce feelings of depression and anxiety which help keep your mood stable. Exercise increases overall energy and motivation levels and improves sleep. Joining a sports team is a great way to fit more exercise into your life for better overall physical and mental health.

4. Fun and relaxation.

Hobbies are very important in early recovery. Hobbies fill your time with healthy, productive pursuits and ward off feelings of isolation and boredom. They offer fun and relaxation, which are crucial for reducing stress and making a life of sobriety enjoyable. Sober team sports are a great option as a hobby. Team sports involve regular practices and competitions and even provide opportunities to relax with the team over pizza after the game.

5. Self-confidence.

Addiction often leaves self-limiting beliefs. Pushing the envelope and discovering your potential is an exciting by-product of playing with a team. As you gain skills and improve your performance, your self-confidence will increase, resulting in additional confidence in your recovery.

How to Find Sober Team Sports Opportunities

Many cities have sober team sports leagues. A Google search can help you find a sober team, or you can ask around at your support group meetings. Your faith organization or college campus may have sober leagues, or at least offer team sports that aren’t centered around drinking. Check your local YMCA for leagues, too. YMCA leagues may not necessarily be sober leagues, but teammates will likely be health-minded and supportive of sobriety. Once you join a team, give it your all, and you’ll enjoy the many benefits of sober sports.