I’ve had a long-standing belief, and I’m pretty sure there is some research out there to support it, that businesspeople perform better when they’re also sportspeople. Or at the very least consistently physically active people.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2020. I start a business with a friend in the heart of a global pandemic. About a month or so after that, while attending an indoor soccer match with a different friend, I became curious about the way men show up on a soccer field.
It was interesting to me how they went in for a tackle, how they communicate with each other and what their thoughts are when striking a goal. I was convinced that parallels could be drawn between this and running a successful business.
So I did what anyone with an intense sense of curiosity would do. I started a soccer team. Yes, you read right. I started an all-girls soccer team called #SquadGoals. Growing up, my father and brothers weren’t big time into sports so I knew nothing about the sport. We didn’t have a team we supported as a family.
Being a non-soccer player, I had three very simple pre-requisites to join the team:
· You had to be female (any age)
· You had to NOT know how to play soccer
· You had to bring a healthy dose of humour along
Once we got in the game, this is some of what I learnt:
1. Communication is key
Well what do you know? Effective communication is the glue that binds the team together. “I’m open!” “Pass the ball!” “Shoooooot!!!!!!!!” “What a goal!” are probably the most common screams you’ll hear on the field. Since almost all of us didn’t know what we were doing, we figured it out together. The same goes for business. Talking for the sake of talking won’t get us ahead. We need to keep in mind what our objective is and ensure that our communication is aligned.
2. Know your role
Not everyone is a striker. That is okay! It doesn’t make you less valuable. Anyway, every good striker knows that it takes the whole team to make the goal possible. Sure, you’re elated getting the ball across the line, but if you’re fixated on that, you could miss out on your calling to be the defender or midfielder your squad needs. I, myself, happen to be a pretty fire defender. I’m not afraid to go in for the tackle. I stick my leg out. I don’t quit even when I sometimes miss. I put them under pressure and make it difficult to get the ball away in a goal-scoring play. I may not have scored many goals, but my role is important. In my experience, salespeople tend to be glorified in the workplace. They’re the “strikers”, but without the whole team in play, scoring the “goal” would not happen. Can we all please agree on that?
3. You miss all the shots you don’t take
Trying and failing is always better than not trying at all. That is all that needs saying here. Who cares if you trip and fall? Who cares if the ball hits the post? Who cares if it is completely wide? If you don’t try, you’ll never know what to improve on. Moral of this story – take the risk. Some will work out, others not. Next time you’ll know better and when you know better, you’ll do better.
4. Be fearless in the pursuit of what you want
This learning and the one before are similar except that this one is more of an overall statement that applies to the game as a whole. What’s the worst that can happen by being completely fearless in your pursuit? You may exit the field with some battle wounds. But did you show up for yourself? For your team? Did you give it your best shot or were you shying away every time the ball was passed to you? Nike was onto something when they said “Just do it!” A universal truth because if not now, then when? The business parallel I draw from this is that if you’re not giving it all you’ve got, don’t bother playing.
5. Don’t hog the ball – it takes a team to win
If you don’t pass the ball because you want to be the star of the show, then a team sport is not for you. There will be the anomaly from time to time who can “do it all”, but with most tasks in life, business and sport, it will take a variety of skills to get the ball into the back of the nets. We’ve all seen them at least once in our careers, whether in school or professionally. The ones who want to do it all to impress. Rest, my friend. There’s no room for ego in a team sport. (There’s no room for ego, period. But that’s a story for another day.)
6. Trying too many tricks will make you lose the ball
Another “star of the show” tactic is wanting to show off all your tricks. There is a time and a place for that, but when the game is on, it often costs you the ball. Worth it? Methinks not. The objective is to keep the ball in play for your team and to score. In business, play to your strength for the greater benefit. Not all situations call for all your strengths. Knowing when to play what will ensure that you meet your goals quickly and effectively.
7. Your input only matters if you’re in the game
Well, ok fair enough, we didn’t really allow spectators because we wanted to fall magnificently on our butts and laugh with (and at) each other without an audience but this one applies nonetheless. I hear it all the time where people give their input on how to make that pass, shoot that shot, save that goal when they’re standing on the sidelines. Quite frankly and with all due respect, they can save it until they actually get in the game. To “present yourself for battle” as it were, takes courage. I am not interested in a single opinion of anyone not in the game. #Thankyouverymuch. Do I need to unpack this parallel or do you catch my drift?
We have a lot of fun on the field. We take a lot of water breaks and make up most of the rules as we go along. I do have to mention though, there is a massive difference between men in the game and women in the game, and it has nothing to do with experience. Men are far more aggressive, and far more unapologetic. They can kick you in the stomach and look the ref straight in the eye, hands in the air, saying “no foul”. They put their entire power into every shot and they’re relentless in their pursuits.
With the ladies there are lot of “sorry” “did I hurt you?” “are you okay?” statements being exchanged, which is so interesting to me. I wonder if the saying is true that “good girls come out last”. I continue to learn all about the beautiful game. It has given me much more than I ever anticipated.