Like hundreds and thousands of parents, I spend Saturday mornings at sporting events following my children around Brisbane. In winter, both of my sons play soccer, or football as it is supposed to be known. Apart from the benefit of increasing my social network, it is one of the most rewarding exercises of my week; my sons display varying levels of skills however they always play with a big smile and love the game. This week I had a bit of a break between games and it got me thinking about why sport is an important part of learning and specifically what skills and behaviours are being refined for later in life.
Team sports rely on people being punctual. Each game is scheduled to start at a precise time and finish at a precise time so that the next game can start on time. Timeliness is certainly next to godliness on Saturday mornings! Punctuality is one of the most important and yet one of the least respected behaviours in the workplace and it is something that is drilled into my sons on Saturday mornings and I hope that they carry it into their working careers. When you are late in a team sport, you let your team mates down just as when you are late for anything at work – you let your peers, your managers and possibly your customers down. It is never good enough yet happens far too regularly. A past manager of mine once told me that “if you want someone to respect your time you’d better respect theirs”. It has resonated with me for my whole working career.
Respect and tolerance are two behaviours that are drilled into children at Saturday morning sport and once again, I really hope that it sticks with my sons for their entire lives. The referee is the ultimate authority and he or she deserves respect. The coach and manager give up their time to help the children and they deserve respect as well. The team mates all play to varying standards but everyone is trying their best and as such they deserve respect and tolerance. Finally, the children are in a competition and as such there is an opposition. While you are trying to always win the game, you need to show appropriate levels of respect to your competitors whether you are winning or losing. The children are taught to be gracious winners and good losers. The parallels for workplace behaviours are obvious. Respect your business and acknowledge those who are trying to help you get ahead. Be tolerant of your workmates; they may be different to you but you need to show respect and not be dismissive or aggressive. Finally, be good winners and good losers; sometimes you have good days and sometimes you have bad days and you need to always remember that what goes up usually comes down.
The final lesson that I can draw a simple parallel between team sports and work is that the Saturday morning is only the end product. Without planning and preparation the kids’ performance tends to be poor. When they miss training, they are nowhere near as polished in a game. If they don’t train well and goof off, they miss the key skills that they need to have acquired before game day. If they aren’t organised before the game, knowing the time and venue and having their gear organised, the boys tend to be totally out of sorts on the field. It is no different for people when they are working. If you turn up to work without an idea of what you need to achieve that day, you are already an hour behind. If you don’t invest the time to ensure that your skills are sharp, relevant and refined, you are not giving yourself the best possible chance to be successful at work. Finally, if you don’t stretch yourself a little in preparation, you have no idea how you will cope with the inevitable unplanned stresses and distractions that occur to all of us regularly.
It is a very weird thing to actually admit publicly but I love to hire people who have played some form of team sport at some stage of their life. I really don’t care how good they were but I do love to see that they have played. The reasons for this have been outlined in this blog; team sports teach respect, tolerance, work ethic, preparation, planning and punctuality. However they also teach the importance of one thing that cannot be coached and that is fun and fun is important in every workplace. So when you are with your children at sport this Saturday, take the time to reflect and think that you are doing one of the best possible things to prepare them for their career ahead.
Brad McMahon – Managing Director