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Winning at Work with Team Sports

Team sports have gotten a bad rap recently. You’ve probably seen articles bashing an over-emphasis on putting your kids in too many activities, and shows like the HBO documentary Trophy Kids showcases the kind of psychotic sideline behavior that makes us all reluctant to be one of those sports parents. Of course, some people do push their kids too hard and devote too much time to running their over-pressured offspring from one activity to the next. On the flip side, I’ve got neighbors whose children aren’t in sports and the kids are well behaved, happy and fully functional.

That said, many of my best memories growing up were from playing sports. And I’ve gotten older and continued to play pickup basketball, rec league softball, and golf, it’s been fun to continue developing friendships on the court, field and course with longtime friends and meeting new ones through this kind of competition. It’s all too easy to let “I’m busy” become an excuse to sit on the couch when you get home from work, and while I like watching a game as much as the next person, I’d rather be playing. I’ve also started to see how much fun it is to get out and be active with my own kid as I’ve moved into the life stage of being a parent. We’re never going to force our kids to be in a million different activities or cuss out coaches from the touchline like those crazy Trophy Kids moms and dads, but I am already seeing how introducing my child, nieces, and nephews to one or two new sports a year is teaching them teamwork, self-control and self-confidence.

Such qualities don’t exist in isolation, but carry over into the classroom in the case of our children. For those who’ve competed at kids and maybe through high school and colleges sports, they also come into play in the workplace. If you’ve had the discipline to train for something over many years, you’re likely going to exhibit similar commitment in your job. Someone who was always pushing to be their best in their chosen sport is probably going to be a self-starter who you can rely on to get things done without needing to look over their shoulder all the time. And as President Harry Truman said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit.” Those who’ve gotten used to buying into the team concept and sacrificing personal stats to help the group achieve its higher objectives are the kind of colleagues you feel privileged to work alongside. No wonder Kevin Knifflin, postdoctoral research associate at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management Participation and his colleagues found in a comprehensive research study that, “Participation in competitive youth sports ‘spills over’ to occupationally advantageous traits that persist across a person’s life.”

For me personally, team sports taught me how to confront and overcome adversity, be accountable and cultivate a work ethic that drives me each and every day. I also learned that while you might win a lot, you’ll also encounter losses – hey, even the juggernaut Golden State Warriors lost one game in the recent NBA playoffs, and in that defeat that dropped them to 16-1 they conceded a record 86 points in one half! But yet Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and co were able to come back from this dreadful performance to win the next two games and close out the Cavs. I might not be an NBA MVP, but I’ve tried to learn a similar lesson about bouncing back from defeat and learning lessons that make me better. What have you learned from sports and how do you apply them in your work and personal life? Let me know in the comments below.


-Tyler Groepper, Vice President of Sales at Shamrock Solutions

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