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Why I Look for Sports People For My Team

Team Building - Running through the mud in the woods

I had reason the other day to reflect on the question of why I’m always looking for some kind of physical challenge to work on with my team. The question, more or less, was “why does it always have to be something physical – that just suits those of you who are fit”…

It was akin to fingernails on a chalkboard for me, but at the time, I couldn’t articulate why. Having had time to think about it, I think I understand, and no doubt this will upset some people, but this is my view and mine alone.

I’m unashamedly a sports-person. Sport has always played a part in my life, and for a large part of it, I saw my worth through how I performed in sport. I’ve played in a lot of teams and camaraderie and mateship are common themes across them all. You learn a lot about the people next to you when you’re doing ‘suicide sprints’ up and down a rugby pitch or when you’re churning through laps in the pool.

In this world of the readi-quote, my twitter feed often throws up this pearler “sports do not teach character, they reveal it”, and it’s not just the playing of sport, but the preparation for it – more so, in fact.

At school I played waterpolo with some guys who were incredibly talented. You know the ones – the guys who pick things up intuitively, have great peripheral vision and ready-made six packs to go with the total package. Some of them, for all their God-given talents, would take short cuts at training. Turn up 20 minutes late to miss a few torturous 200m sets, stretch an imaginary cramp every few minutes, toilet breaks every half hour etc.

When we played in the Nationals, you’d find these same guys’ shoulders drop when we were behind on the scoreboard – they weren’t prepared to fight, to scrap for the team.

On the flipside, there were always those who weren’t as naturally gifted but would turn up early to do extra laps, stick around to work on skills and when push came to shove, these were the guys I wanted to be in the pool with, because I knew that they would empty the tank for me. I knew that if we lost, it wouldn’t be because we didn’t try.

Another thing with sport is that you have to make a decision. Whether you’re a 1500m swimmer or a tighthead prop, there are moments in a race or a match where you have to make a decision that will have an impact on outcome. Do you turn on a burst of speed at 1000m to catch the leader or wait another 200m? Do you drive through the scrum on the 22m and try to force a penalty to take the lead? You have to make a decision. And if it doesn’t work, you learn from it, and hopefully the next time, make a better decision.

Third, sport teaches you that you’re only as strong as the weakest player on your team. In school rugby, one of the wingers tends to be there because it’s the position he can do the least damage (largely because we struggled to field a competitive 15). That means everyone has to work harder to cover for him – and similarly, if he’s smart (and he tends to be), he’ll lift his performance beyond what’s expected, because he doesn’t want to let the team down. Team dynamic works in a wonderful way like that.

If, however, said winger doesn’t apply himself, the team will also let him know.

Whether it’s an obstacle course or an Escape Room or a team triathlon, what these show is the way people come together and who’s prepared to work harder for the team. They show you who isn’t interested to try and who isn’t prepared to challenge themselves.

And I guarantee that it’s better to find this out through some simulated activity then when it really counts.

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