The importance of team sports to wellbeing
I often speak about my father, who I regard as one of my biggest inspirations in life. Despite his humble beginnings, he managed for some time to rise up to the status of India’s leading hockey player through sheer determination. Recently, he was selected by the nomination committee of Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (MYAS) for the Dronacharya Award, for his lifelong dedication and contribution to the sport of hockey.
The Dronacharya Award not just reserved for any mentor, but for those who chalk out a path to stardom for prodigies. Intrepid as ever, my father made a name for himself not just as a hockey player and coach, but as a nurturing influence to many of India’s Olympic champions.
Perseverance, collaboration, passion — these are the words that come to mind when I think of him. My childhood allowed me to experience the benefits of participating in sports, and team sports especially. My mission now is to raise awareness of those benefits and to explain how they can be integrated into the Wholistic Wellbeing framework.
It is our Professional Wellbeing, in particular, that can be enhanced by playing team sports. During my career, the two skills that I found to be vital to success were teamwork and leadership. These are also the skills that professional athletes have to develop in order to compete at the highest level. How can we learn from them?
The clue’s in the name: team sports teach us to strike a balance between personal achievement and team success. Without teamwork, no team would succeed; but it is also the brilliance of individuals, like Lionel Messi in soccer, that can, at times, save the day.
This balance is something that we can later apply in our professional careers. Many jobs rely on teamwork, which can sometimes lead to conflict. But like on the pitch, we must remember that working as a team means we cannot be too ego-driven. Of course, letting our personality shine through is important. However, if something goes wrong, it’s important for the team to remain a strong unit and show solidarity to avoid individual blaming or scapegoating. As with any rock solid soccer team, no single player should ever be blamed for his team losing.
Fostering solidarity in this way is one of the most important responsibilities of a team leader; whether it’s a soccer coach or captain, or a company CEO. Great bosses make a workplace succeed. The saying that “people do not quit their jobs, they quit their bosses” is one I’ve often stuck by as a leader, first at Edifecs, and now at RoundGlass. Our role as leaders is to inspire our team; to love and respect our colleagues like family; and to ensure that dialogue and communication are open, transparent and insightful. American astronaut, Chris Hatfield, once said:
“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine”.
It can be irresistibly tempting to glorify our own crowning acts, but as Hatfield suggests, it’s far more important to create a durable framework for sustainable success rather than focusing on episodic greatness. To me, the greatest act of leadership is the slow-burning one: I remember struggling to get Edifecs, my first company, out of debt, pressured by the knowledge that so many relied on me, and how much my leadership meant for them. It was a long, collective effort that got us to where we are today. It was that team mindset that lifted us out of debt. It was my respect for the team and our mutual commitment to healthcare access that made for both inspiring leadership and a thriving company.
Team sports prepared me for those challenges beautifully. They have the ability to transform our Professional Wellbeing, if we give them the chance — but also our Physical and Emotional Wellbeing; and in situations like mine at Edifecs, our Financial Wellbeing too. The all-encompassing and truly wholistic nature of learning through team sports is so vital to Wholistic Wellbeing, and there is genuinely no more fun way to learn than by kicking or throwing a ball with your friends.