Our latest blog post comes from Nuala. She wanted to explore the links between performance on the pitch and how it can help your life off the pitch. Take it away, Nuala…
I’ve played Gaelic football from the age of six and have been with the same team for almost 20 years. Just last weekend, after losing a championship game by a goal in the last minute, I looked around at my gutted friends (which are considered more of a family) and realised sport can be cruel, unfair, physically and mentally challenging, but also one of the best ways to learn life lessons. So, it had me thinking, has sport helped me through my academics and career?
I’ve been lucky in the sense that I have a good relationship with exercise and have always loved playing sport. Growing up, I would stay after school for netball, football, athletics, and I found that I functioned best academically when active.
I could probably write an essay on the positives of sports and exercise, but here are some of the key benefits that relate to the workplace.
Health and wellbeing
The first and most obvious benefit of participating in playing sports is an increase in health and wellbeing.
Sports and exercise release endorphins, or what I like to call them, happy hormones, which act to increase feelings of pleasure, reduce pain and are an overall mood booster. I find that after a busy day in the office, there’s nothing better than a training session in the fresh air with my teammates.
For that one hour of sport, you’re not thinking of anything but the game and having a laugh with your friends, which in turn, relieves the tension and frustration of the day and of course, makes you physically fitter and healthier.
Working in a team
While all sport and exercise has benefits, I personally favour team sports because winning with your team, or more importantly losing with your team, creates a special bond between peers.
You have to rely on others, respect your coach, yet know when to take leadership, which we should carry out every day in the office. Learning from an early age how to trust others with responsibility, sharing credit and coping with failure are essential skills for the workplace.
To learn how to fail
Nothing angers me more than when I hear school sports day no longer has winners - isn’t losing one of the most important things?
Sport teaches us that hard work is rewarding but even then, we don’t always win.
Of course, confidence is great but losing reminds us that there will be often someone bigger, better, stronger and that’s okay.
When we win all the time, we can become complacent, resting on our laurels and refusing to grow.
Losing, on the other hand, can drive us to always improve and to handle failure maturely.
Child athletes learn at a young age how to balance school, homework and athletics. Employers desire efficient workers that are self-motivated and stay on task.
When I was at school, I had to balance three sports, a teenage social life and exams.
Quitting sport wasn’t an option, so instead, I learned how to prioritise.
Knowing you have one hour of training followed by one hour of homework increased my productivity and subconsciously, I learned how to manage my time and prioritise.
From preparing for the big matches to stepping forward to the start line of the final race, handling high-pressure situations is a natural phenomenon that happens in sports.
While not all professions are high stress, companies favour an individual who is capable of coping when times get hard. It includes being calm in an interview or meeting a short deadline. Sports may not have been your thing growing up, and the thought of running outside in the rain for an hour could be your worst nightmare. But, find something you enjoy - salsa dancing, yoga, badminton or swimming - and stick at it.
I recommend taking up an activity a couple evenings a week, bring a friend or make new friends because I strongly believe activity increases productivity!