As a practicing OD professional, I have always laid a great deal of stress upon the importance of taking up sports or other healthy hobbies in addition to professional ambitions. When I see people discounting extracurricular activities such as sports in favor of work and studies and getting affected because of it, I don’t hesitate to tell them the solution for their good. I tell them that extracurricular activities and work/studies are, to a great degree, mutually inclusive and adjusting professional and sports activities together helps in (a) keeping interests balanced and (b) developing certain competitive skills that will benefit in the future.
When you participate in extracurricular activities in a group, you learn how to interact with different people (preparing you for the inevitable experience of coping with different colleagues and employees in the workplace). You also learn to cope with diversity in all forms such as backgrounds, religions, viewpoints, etc.
In this post, I will focus specifically on the importance of extracurricular activities with reference to sports. When competing in a team with clearly designated roles for members (according to strengths and playing styles), you build your own unique set of competencies. Some of them include the following:
- Management Skills: Participation in a team requires both tact and the ability to get the best out of fellow team members. If you are the captain of the team, the only way to maximize the chances of your success is to ensure that the team is functioning as one whole, rather than as individuals. You learn how to get the best output (in terms of results) from your fellow team members, and manage with what you have within the given constraints. In football, for example, strikers must be aware of the strengths and any weaknesses of their team’s midfielders and vice versa.
- Negotiation Skills: Being part of a team also requires ensuring that all parties feel equally valued, and that no one’s input or opinion is undervalued. However, in a conflicting situation, it is sometimes necessary to side with one party. Therefore, you learn how to negotiate with your team members that oppose you on any idea. Sometimes you find you have to negotiate with an external party while trying to keep any hothead team member calm. For example, a difficult referee can be one of the worst nightmares of a footballer. Dealing with such a person while keeping your team calm can be both complex and rewarding. This involves calculating the pros and cons of every decision and choosing a solution that fits best.
- Communication Skills: As part of a team, an individual must learn to effectively communicate and maintain strong relationships with his fellow players to maximize potential of the team. This helps you to experience different kinds of people and gradually you learn how to interact with them to get your message across in an effective way. Footballers depend on each other for success, as the sport is played by a team and success is dependent on how well they work together, passing the ball to each other skillfully.
- Convincing Skills: A sports team consists of many players and consequently a multitude of opinions. However, to succeed, it is necessary to possess the skills required to convince all parties of one course of action. This involves the ability to get your viewpoint across in an effective manner and to ensure that people are on board with your plan. Football often consists of complex plays and plans of action and you need to be confident and sure of your course to be able to convince ten other players.
- Conflict Management: Competitive rivalry not only leads to a stronger team, but also helps to build strong inter-team ties. In case of conflict or disagreement, it becomes easier to resolve tense situations if you are aware of your team and the reasons behind the conflict. This helps you to learn how to manage different stages of conflicts while teaching you how to diffuse such confrontations before they escalate. Fights with the referee or with players from the rival team often erupt and it is important to know how to bring both parties to a reasonable compromise.
- Confidence: A great leader, or even a great team player, must have the confidence required to make decisions in tough situations; in fact, any combination of the skills above would make a good leader. A person who successfully learns even one of the skills listed above gains confidence in his abilities, partly due to his achievements and partly due to the efforts he puts in.
My favorite sports include football, basketball and tennis. I try and play any of these sports at least thrice a week, taking time out on weekends and in the middle of the week to put in a few hours on the court or field. It has helped me to ensure that I remain fit and active, and stay in good shape both mentally and physically.
I would attribute both my sense of teamwork and my strong resolve for career progression, to playing sports. Football and basketball, for example, are team sports, and have taught me that I must learn to function as part of a group. Contrarily, tennis is a one-man game and has shown me the importance of making decisions based on my own instincts.
For me, the most important skill that develops while playing a sport is your leadership. It teaches you the three most important aspects of leadership – How to Delegate, Inspire, and Motivate. You also learn how to manage and empower team members. All of this ultimately leads to a person with a well-rounded personality and the ability to compete in a variety of situations.
Sports provide a great outlet for stress release. The physical exertion is what makes you harness your aggression positively, substituting for less healthier and more destructive alternatives. This is where I consider sports to be the handiest activity; you can exercise your body while developing valuable skills for the workplace. It is both useful and cost-effective!
During any of the extracurricular activities you opt for, you are likely to encounter challenges such as strategizing, quick decision-making, maximizing output, goal setting, target achievement, competence and group dynamics. The ability to deal with these situations successfully on the field is useful throughout your professional as well as personal life. Do you take part in any extracurricular activities? How have they helped you in your professional life? Comment below and share your stories with us!