Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women On Business writer
I began watching football as a lark. The men I worked with seemed fascinated with the sport and regularly talked about it, so I became curious and started watching. Fast forward a couple of decades, and I am a diehard fan who listens to sports talk radio and for whom Sunday afternoons from September into February are sacred. I find football truly engaging and fun to watch, and it also happens to be a conversation starter with clients and colleagues. In addition – I have lately begun to realize that there are serious business lessons to be learned from the sport and the men who play it. And, there are some important takeaways for women in the way in which the coaches and players deal with situations and the issues that arise on and off the field.
Be confident – no matter what.
Week after week you can see it – quarterbacks who make a fortune and have just thrown an interception and lost the game, but remain unflappable in their confidence. They tell the fans – and seem to really believe – that next week it will turn around. I can’t speak for you – but when I make a whopper of a mistake my first impulse is to think it’s my fault – and that I am not worthy. The confidence these players project keeps the fans believing and it is a trait women frequently lack.
Have grace under pressure.
Whether it’s facing the media when they haven’t made the playoffs, or facing the opposition on the field, there’s a calm in the face of intense pressure that is truly remarkable. Of course, there are times when coaches and players lose their cool completely, and these incidents usually get a lot of publicity. But all in all, there’s something to be learned from the ability of players and coaches to respond, rather than react in the face of adversity, and it is an admirable attribute in the workplace.
Support your team.
Coaches often take responsibility for plays gone bad or losses, players take it on their shoulders if something didn’t go right – and the bottom line is, the Team (with a capital T) stands together in good times and in bad. In fact, players who don’t support their colleagues are seen as agitators and often traded. In business and in sports, team players are highly valued.
Don’t take it personally.
Whether they are benched by the coach, booed by the fans, or criticized by the press, it is amazing to see the way most players seemingly let it slide off their backs. Though they may not be happy, most are not the least bit defensive and seem to take it in stride. Perhaps they know enough not to take the bait, but rather to let it go and make their statement by doing better the next week. Another good lesson.
Play it close to the vest.
You almost never hear players talking about their injuries. In fact, it’s usually a deep dark secret whether and where they’re hurt or if they will be ready to play. Why talk about your weaknesses and give the other side information? It’s a good point for us to remember – unless there’s a good reason to share personal information, don’t.
Are you a football fan? Please join the conversation!
Long, long ago the Bears were on their way to the Super Bowl. They had some kind of special defensive play (can’t remember what it was) that had a weird name. I kept making the point to co-workers that in news stories, the play should be explained (because it was far from self-explanatory). No, they all said, you should know. Well, how the heck can I know if no one tells me? I still disagree with them! I thought of that when I came across (via a friend with a football playing son) a book about understanding football, “A Sportscaster’s Guide to Watching Football,” by Mark Oristano. Now you can know what all those different “code words” are. (I was always partial to “fair catch.” My take on it: I won’t run if you won’t smoosh me. Life should be like that.”) So people who don’t understand much will understand enough to have conversations, if they so desire. And as I think in terms of networking, etc., in business, it’s good to have at least basic knowledge of the game.
Jane Stimmler says
Love your (accurate) definition of “fair catch” and the book sounds very helpful!