Why Do We Love Our Favorite Sports Teams?

Thomas Pucci Face paint? Check. Foam finger? Got it! Vanity license plate cryptically revealing your love for your favorite team? Done!

Have you ever wondered about the psychology of sports – and why we identify so strongly with a particular team? We recently asked NCU faculty member, Dr. Pucci, why many of us are so dedicated to our favorite teams.

Dr. Pucci, who is a full-time faculty member in NCU’s School of Education and teaches courses in our Master’s program with an Athletic Coaching Specialization, believes sports fans love their teams because they are a microcosm for the normal lives that most of us lead. As in a work setting, great teams have bench warmers or “250 hitters,” blue-collar guys who perform their jobs with pride, and then, at the top, we have the all-stars who everyone either loves or hates – and they inspire us.

“I think we’re fans because sports give people a model for living life successfully – they give us hope,” reflects Pucci.

“At the heart of every successful team, just like every high-performance organization, is a great leader who can get people to do what he or she wants, and they are happy doing it,” explains Dr. Pucci. “On a truly successful team, individual goals become secondary to the goals of the organization.”

Dr. Pucci notes that great leaders of companies like Sam Walton at Walmart or Steve Jobs at Apple share very similar qualities to great coaches such as basketball Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) at Duke, Coach Lou Holtz, the football coach whose team at Notre Dame won a national championship in 1988, and the legendary basketball coach for UCLA, John Wooden.

“Wooden’s Pyramid of Success was basically a very simple way for his players to remain excited, successful and positive – and as in companies, once people buy in to the leader’s vision, they believe that this is their calling and great things can happen,” relates Pucci.

Dr. Pucci started his own athletic journey after completing his Ph.D. at the University New Mexico where he served as the head tennis coach. He then went to the University of Arkansas, where he coached the men’s tennis team and taught in the Physical Education Department for 11 years. Recently, he was inducted into the University of Arkansas Athletic Hall of Fame. Pucci has been an athletic administrator for 28 years and has experience at the NAIA, NCAA Division I, and NCAA Division II levels.