Developing Management Skills through Sports
Sport, if you observe carefully, is structurally quite similar to how business works – Both sports, and business, are competitive fields; both require discipline in order to make it big; and both require one thing to succeed at the highest level: Management Skills. This observation has led to many forward-thinking organisations adopting sports as a pedagogical tool to accentuate and add significant value to their learning function.
Using sports as a catalyst for learning & development is a multi-disciplinary process which requires expertise in several fields, some of which are training, pedagogy, psychology, management, given sport, and to some extent organisational development as well. It is a highly specialized process that requires facilitation by experienced professionals if one intends to derive maximum value from it. If it isn't executed properly, it could turn out to be just another ‘fun activity’ wasting time and resources in due process.
So, how do we use sports as a medium to develop management skills, especially at an organisational level? We follow a five-step process to
1. Carrying out a Training Need Analysis to understand the learning objectives. The learning objectives are carefully outlined to target specific improvement areas.
2. Idea on which sport is to be picked and what can be learnt from a given sport (Eg. Boxing –ideal for individual development; Football – ideal for team development). For instance, sportsman teach us valuable management and life lessons; some of which that apply to boxing have been listed below.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
- Understand your opponents
- Strategic thinking and Tactical adjustments
- Position yourself in the right place at the right time
- Choose your offense and defense carefully
- Be proactive and sharpen your anticipation
- Set-up your opportunities; don’t wait for them
- Plan meticulously – Plan A,B,C
- Contingency planning
- Importance of Discipline
- Focus, dedication, and hard work
- Perseverance and resilience
- Work hard in training and you won’t have to suffer under the lights
- Winners aren’t born – they are made
- Be the best version of yourself
- Believe in yourself
- Be open to and seek advice
- Recover quickly
3. We use the selected sport as a medium to create a controlled simulation which gives us tremendous insight into how people behave, perform, and communicate in a competitive environment. We record these observations for future reference. The key is to ensure you have measurable metrics beforehand.
4. Further, we use the recorded observations to debrief the participants, encourage them to discuss, reflect, and learn from these exchanges.
5. Finally, the last and the most crucial step in the process is to create an alignment between the sports activity (including the succeeding exchanges) and the targeted management concepts outlined in the learning objectives. If this step fails, the learning outcomes will be unintended and the purpose of the whole exercise is lost. We have mastered this step.
Developing management skills through sports is a very dynamic, highly specialized, and an extremely effective method. The amazing thing about it is that it is highly customizable. You can have a one day,or a two day, or a many day workshop. You can choose to address pretty much any management skill that is required at a workplace. You can also choose any sport subject to the outlined learning need sand availability of logistics.
However, because it is a niche and highly specialized (and relatively expensive) model, it isn't mainstream and until now, only the most forward-thinking organisations have implemented it. For them, the model has produced amazing results, especially when there is a buy-in from all the stakeholders. The reason it works so well is because there is no better way to create a conducive learning environment than by bringing sport, fun, competition, and targeted learning to a workplace.