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  • Will Foden

How professional sport carries over to a thriving business.

Updated: Apr 12

Last year I had a conversation with a client of mine who sent me a infographic expressing some of the carry over traits from sport to business and it always got me thinking about how playing professionally changed me and my perception of life around business in general.Through this blog ill explain how and what skills a professional or recreational sports player can carry over to the business world as well as improving your health and lifestyle with your family.

Im lucky enough to be surrounded by professional attitudes every day. My mrs swam for Great Britain, a lot of my friends are still involved in professional sport as well as working with ex professional athletes here at Ufit in Singapore. What I have come to realise is that this is a never ending cycle. To be honest, it can be tough leaving a professional environment as the standards and expectations of you and your team are totally different to the outside world. Part of my journey and aim is to take these values and start to integrate them into society, aiming to increase peoples standards of their lives, performance and family.Here is a list of common traits founds in sports people that can be used to improve your business. Strength This comes in many forms. Physical strength to perform, emotional strength to suffer through training and competition. Environmental strength is a huge part of rugby, making the right decision of what tactic to play when in a game. Being able to make split second decisions in hostile environments has a huge carry over into business decisions. Physically I coach people to always to be stronger, improving week on week and getting better at skills and tasks in the gym that carry over to life. From a emotional stand point it is my job to teach people resilience and strength so that they can make better lifestyle choices to improve their overall physical and mental performance. Team work

A business is only as strong as the team who runs it. Being able to work with others towards a common goal will impact the longevity and productivity of the business. The All Blacks talk about the fact that there isn’t anyone bigger than the team (James Kerr, Legacy). Unless you are a solo act but even then its about the team who follows you and helps you get to the competition. Being able to understand your teams drivers, personality’s as well as flaws will allow you to help run and be part of a smooth team and this can be taught to sportsmen and women quickly and effectively. Communication One of the keys to any business, team or family. Communication seems to be a buzz word used for everything, especially in rugby. When coaching it would be the first thing shouted out to any question asked. But going deeper into communication, the tone and actual language used has a massive impact on your message. Simple, direct and to the point communication means that the target audience has the ability process and utilise the information effectively. Sure, using passionate words or phrases is important for moral and culture building. But in business communication comes down to two things; How is it presented and how is it received. Being able to communicate and be empathetic can and will help in the long term when keeping a team together. O

wnership This is a huge part of what it means to be a leader. You are where you are because of you, no one else. No other reason but because of you. This is demonstrated in Jocko Wilincks book Extreme Leadership. Most professional sports men and women own their decisions or actions in an arena and know the difference between what’s good now and what is needed to be done for the greater good in the long term. I take full responsibility of my current state. If I make a mistake it is my fault for not knowing, if I make a poor decision again this is my fault. But the difference between me and others is that I want to go the extra mile not to make that mistake again. This comes down to your training and environment. ‘You don’t sink to the level of your competition, you sink to the level of your training’. This mantra stays with me always and pushes me to want better, not only for me but for my team. Growth and Learning If you are in a room and think you are the cleverest in there, then you are in the wrong room. Being open to discussion to improve that extra one percent is imperative to be professional sports man or women. The carry over effect is that most sports pros want to improve, get better and keep moving forward. Within a business the ambition is to find people with growth mindsets as they will be more flexible with decisions and adjust to changing environments. Being able to make calls at the right time rather then being in a fixed mindset where they have to be right which can lead to failure in the long term. Emotion This has two main elements, passion and clarity. Sports people have to have passion. Who would put themselves through such turmoil as well as vigorous training if they weren’t passionate about being competitive or winning. The second is clarity. A massively important trait of any man or women is that fact that they actually know ‘why’ they are doing it. This then allows them to set up a structure and a path to follow to get the task done without using emotion as a driver. No one can become world class without passion. But many sports men, women and businesses fail because they haven’t got the clarity or execution plan to keep them on the right path to success. Tenacity and Resilience True professionals and true legends of any sport have gone through hardship and turmoil as well refusing to give up. Messi once said that ‘He just wouldn’t leave’. This is a huge mantra of mine. I’m no Lionel Messi, but I have the same ethic. I was told that I may never walk properly again after having a horrific accident being kicked by a horse. 10 months later I played in the British and Irish cup for Doncaster Knights and on to play 4 more years of rugby before moving to Asia. Strong willed and stubbornness are traits that any work place needs when times are tough. Coping under pressure Tough times can lead to desperate measures. Athletes have the ability to adjust and refocus on current events without hesitation. High work loads, big meetings as well as coping with a family are all usual traits in business environments. The difference between a true great is that they can make the right decision at the right time for the game or for the company.

Goal orientation and DeterminationAs a professional myself I believe I reached the highest level I physically could. I suffered a major injury which if I hadn’t sustained who knows how much further I could have gone. But actually coming back from injury and playing again defied the odds of a normal persons views on recovery as well as solidified that actions speak louder then words.

Goals for any sports team or individual are a must. Without a destination there can be no path made to lead us there. the best athletes of the sporting world can represent this, giving up their lives to achieve one dream. But once this has gone, the trait of being goal orientated takes on a new path. They redefine their reasoning on how to be successful. Goals in my industry are now defined by how many people I can help, how can I improve their health and performance rather then If I can win a cup final. This is an intrinsic driving force needed by many, but sports men and women can resonate with this more then the average person.

Physical health and wellbeing

Being fit, healthy and performing at your best is a essential part of pro sport. Everything from the minor details such as nutrition, sleep, recovery, mental well being etc are all catered for when playing in a professional environment. But when the game stops, these traits are still left. Most high level sports men and women give back to the community, they encourage youngsters to get on the right path as well as being ambassadors for their sport. Being a positive member of society is massively important when it comes to business, having a poisonous employee who doesn’t respect theirs or others health and wellbeing will always bring a team down.

From a personal standpoint I felt extremely lost when I left professional sport. In my eyes I had ended up on the heap of lost souls who didn’t know what to do post playing. Years on and being objective about it, I did something that not many can say that they have done. I played to the highest standard that I could, learnt a lot on the way but most of all I have carried my sportsman like traits to my current business. I optimise and change other peoples lives, empowering them to make better decisions for themselves and their families. I also teach children and aspiring athletes how to behave and act when wanting to be a professional as this will carry over into their training and their competition. The business circle is small, but being effective and professional are the two main traits that any team and company needs.


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