What Does It Take To Be A Corporate Athlete?

Over the past few years I have been fortunate to work as an Executive Coach with Head Coaches of Elite Sport at the Victorian Institute of Sport and a VFL Club.

I say fortunate because, other than my family, sport is my passion. For almost 20 years, my life was devoid of sport. It was only when someone asked me what are you passionate about (a question I normally ask my own coaching clients) that I made a decision to incorporate more sport into my life and career and these coaching opportunities came about.

Since then, as a coach of elite sport coaches and my own experience as a footballer, I’ve learned a few things which can be applied to corporate life. And many of the learnings are similar:

  • Leadership at all levels is crucial
  • Teamwork (among athletes and their coaches) is essential
  • Having the right talent is critical

But I also discovered three things that corporate professionals can learn from elite sport coaches and athletes:

  • Importance of feedback As the saying goes feedback is the breakfast of champions.  Sport is strongly grounded in constant and rigorous feedback.  It is inescapable.  The scoreboard is visible for all to see.  How often do we receive feedback in our corporate lives?  And when we do, how constructively do we respond to it?  If you cant deal with feedback in elite sport, you don’t survive. The same applies in business. Only by incorporating feedback and changing your game can you really thrive in the corporate world.
  • Managing physical and emotional balance Elite athletes and coaches are better at managing their physical and emotional balance.  In particular, they balance their energy expenditure with their energy renewal.  It fascinates me that sport seasons last typically 6-8 months.  So why do corporate seasons go for 11 or more months?  How can we possibly perform at our best when we get such little recovery?
  • Training for performance Thirdly, elite sport athletes spend most of their time practising, training and preparing for the big events.  Most of their time is spent developing capability rather than delivering elite performance.  Corporate life is the reverse we spend most of our time performing and delivering and a relatively small amount of learning and developing.  What would happen if we spent more time sharpening the saw?

With Sydney’s AFL Premiership success this year, there has been much discussion as to how much their success was the legacy of Paul Roos, their head coach of previous years. His book Sport is Life, Life is Sport An Insight into Achievement and Balance, in Sport, Work and Life co-written with wife Tami, pretty well sums it up.

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