How participation in sport can help you at work

The Olympics are almost upon us and everyone you look, there are TV adverts, radio interviews, advertising hoardings and people talking about sport.

I think there are three categories of people in relation to sport;

  1. Those who participate in sport
  2. Those who enjoy watching sport
  3. Those who don’t enjoy either of the above

I come into the first two categories, having represented Scotland in track and field athletics (3000m and cross country) back in 1989 and 1991. Even today I enjoy exercising in the form of swimming, jogging and going to the gym. And if something interesting is on TV I can appreciate the efforts of other sportsmen and women. However, no matter what category you fall into, I think there are things for you to consider about the benefits of how sport can help you at work.

Those who participate in sport

  • Feel good – exercise helps your body to generate endorphines, which give you a “high” after exercise.
  • Build a new network – its a great way to get to know people who you may not normally come across in your line of work.  Many of the great contacts I made in my career were people who also did athletics. And it was always a good way to meet new people when I moved to a new city or town – by joining the athletics club.
  • Can be team players – many sports require you to be a team player, and you learn that its important to have competition, because without that you would not have anyone to play.
  • Learn about discipline – at work sometimes it hard to keep going when things get tough. However when playing sport, you can learn to dig deep and keep going, even when you dont always want to.  I went out training runs in some awful weathers, but I knew that it was ultimately going to do me good.

 Those who enjoy watching sport

  • have good observational skills – Armchair sports fans are able to observe from a disassociated perspective, and study what the players or indviduals are doing.  These skills of noticing are important at work, as often its the smallest details that will make the difference between happy customers and unsatisfied ones.
  • use their knowledge to build rapport –  have you ever asked a colleague on Monday morning – did you watch the game at the weekend?  And then ask what they thought of it.  Being able to share a common topic with others is a great way to build rapport and get to know someone at work.
  • engage their emotions – if you are on the touchline, or the sofa, its likely you have shouted at the players at some time in your life. Being able to express one’s emotions is a big part of watching sport and a good release for some.  This can have the benefit of them being calmer or more in control. when they get to work because they have had an outlet for their frustrations outside of work.

Those who don’t enjoy either of the above

  • its great to be different – for some, sport does not come onto their radar.  They dont enjoy the competitive element, or they dont like the idea of getting sweaty, so they avoid sport like the plague.  Thats great – because if we were all the same, how dull would life be?
  • thinkers can provide insight around strategy  – some who are in this category are more reflective and insightful, and make great planners or strategists at work.
  • “being” is acceptable – these days the concept of being “in the moment” is becoming a useful skill to have at work, to avoid getting caught up in the stresses and strains of day to day life.  Some of the individuals I know that would fit into this category, are fantastic at helping others to live in the moment and bring a peaceful calm to a workplace.




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