I had only one goal this year. That was to find one thing I love to do, and to do it all year round.

Those close to me will know how passionate I am about team sports, and how it has positive effect on both your mental and physical health. Sport has taken me places I never thought I’d be. From my cousins and I playing touch rugby with a Coca-Cola bottle full of sand in Papua New Guinea, to playing football at a collegiate level in the United States. I got to meet people from different parts of the world and have built connections with people who I couldn’t imagine a life without.

For 2021, I wanted to play as much sport as I could. So far this year I have played football, mixed netball, volleyball, touch rugby and a little bit of indoor cricket. Now that we are coming towards the end of the year, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on what I set out to accomplish, but also to share with what I have learnt from doing what I love. Each of these sports have their own rules, tactics, and skillset which make the game and players unique. But here are the common themes I picked up from playing each sport, and how they have been transferrable into my professional and personal life.

1. The importance of socialising

My social life in 2020 was thrown out of whack. Events and birthdays cancelled, restaurants and pubs closed, even going on road trips weren’t possible some days due to the restrictions in place. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I want nothing more than just my time alone, but I think it can be easy to find yourself not socialising from just being plain lazy. Being forced to interact with others through sport made me realise the importance of socialising. With COVID allowing business to explore the work from home opportunities, people will often forget the benefits of being able to go into work every day. I found myself becoming happier and mentally stronger, my confidence and self-esteem was being boosted, and it gave me an opportunity to learn about different cultures from the diverse background of players in my team.

2. When you work as a team, you’ll feel less stressed.

John Murphy, the author of Pulling together: 10 Rules for High-Performance Teamwork, says that studies show that stress makes us stupid, and leads to us making more mistakes. If your team has good energy, you encourage and inspire each other, and you have fun together which goes a long way to feeling less stressed.

3. Recognition from your team can help you become more productive.

Getting a pat on the back from the coach can boost a player’s motivation, but receiving a kudos from a team member can be even more effective. This lesson seemed to be more relatable in my professional life. In 2014, TINYpulse Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Reports surveyed more than 200,000 employees. Participants reported that having the respect of their peers was the number 1 reason why they go the extra mile. This goes to show that a simple “you did well” gives more than just a compliment, it gives someone that extra motivation to be the best they can be.

4. Working in a team helps you take risks that pay off.

When you work alone, you might be hesitant to put your neck on the line. What if an idea you suggest falls flat? When you work in a team, you know you have the support of the entire group to fall back on in case of failure. That security typically allows teams to take the kind of risks that create “Eureka!” ideas. But here’s one place where size does matter. The most innovative ideas often come from small teams, suggests recent research in the journal Nature, possibly because larger teams argue more, which can get in the way of producing those big ideas. Wharton Business School researchers also discovered that small is the secret to success: they found that two-person teams took 36 minutes to build a Lego figure while four-person teams took 52 minutes to finish, more than 44 percent longer. There’s no definitive ideal small team size but consider following Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ 2 Pizza Rule: no matter how large your company gets; teams shouldn’t be larger than what two pizzas can feed.

5. When we work together, we learn faster.

Once you put together a team of people, there’s a great chance it will consist of people of different ages, backgrounds, skills, and experience. While there are certain challenges at closing the gaps between these differences, the richness of shared knowledge far surpasses it. This means a continuous opportunity for people to learn from each other – professionally and personally. Advantages of teamwork in terms of learning and passing on the knowledge are multiple:

  • New team members can quickly learn the ropes and become productive faster if they have a mentor rather than figuring it out alone.
  • People have the chance to (subconsciously and purposefully) learn about different communication styles – some knowledge they can transfer when working with clients, for example.
  • Employees working in a team can also learn by observing their co-workers and significantly shorten the time dedicated exclusively to training.

Historically, my new years resolutions involved multiple little things that didn’t really matter. With 2022 quickly approaching, I will be recommending my close networks to find that one thing they love to do, and to do it as much as possible. It’s amazing to see how many ways a single thing can positively influence your mental, physical, and overall well-being.

William Edwards

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