WHAT SUCCESS AND FAILURE IN SPORT CAN TEACH US
Business can learn a lot from sports, not least the fact that the important traits of a successful leader include a combination of strong ethics, empathy, honesty and the ability to lead by example. By Alida Raubenheimer-Coetzer.
There is nothing quite like the passionate excitement of parents and supporters next to a school sports field, especially on a chilly winter’s morning when the energy ignites and drives emotions and expectations – leading to anything from heartache and celebration to conflict, anger and much more.
Across continents and cultures young and old seem to find common ground in sport. It’s a driver for unity. It gives momentum to inspire success. And it’s a tool for purpose-driven planning, goalsetting, growth and analysis.
But, it’s not only sports men and women who aim for success and who relentlessly drive themselves and their teams to be winners. All of us want to be winners, whether as individuals leading ourselves or as successful businesses aiming for growth and prosperity.
In the world of business today, all ideologies are aimed at the development of the emerging leaders, the younger generation of managers who are being schooled and formed into the thought-leaders and trendsetters of tomorrow.
Most businesses are aware of the critical need for soft skills or transferrable skills and the need to invest in people in such a way that it will change behaviour and drive productivity and growth.
There is no denying New Zealand’s fierce support of most any sport that provides a competitive spectacle. In my opinion sport is the backbone of being Kiwi and also the reason for me sitting behind my computer today writing about school sport as a building block for a strong work ethic, tenacity, resilience and capability. Many lessons in life, along with our inherent need to seek purpose, are very often unconsciously directed by our experiences of success and failure in the sports arena.
“CONFIDENCE IS CONTAGIOUS, BUT SO IS A LACK OF CONFIDENCE.” ANONYMOUS
There are many legends and heroes who have carried the New Zealand flag across the world with much pride. However, it’s often only their ultimate successes and the pinnacles of their careers that come to mind. I wonder what the learnings were when they were youngsters, wishing only to have fun with their friends and being quite happy if several of them made it onto the same team.
“Many lessons in life, along with our inherent need to seek purpose, are very often unconsciously directed by our experiences of success and failure in the sports arena.”
Black Sticks assistant coach Bryce Collins started playing hockey on the North Shore at age six. Avidly chasing the dream of fun and games with friends, being part of a team was an opportunity for him to connect in the community and spend time with his mates. It seems that was his first encounter with Marc Anthony’s vision of the ideal job: “If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.”
Sport gathers people from across financial divides and all spheres of society and it may be the first steps to understanding diversity and cultural differences.
For Bryce the biggest learnings were found in the challenges around financial constraints, a shortage of players at U/15 level and some major injuries and ill-health which impacted his playing career tremendously over the years.
However, he believes the frustrations and the tears helped build his resilience and enabled him to adapt and put the challenges ahead of him in perspective.
Bryce believes the most significant lessons learnt to have a sound work ethic are to: • Absorb. • Learn. • Reflect.
He debuted for the Black Sticks in 2003 at the age of 23. A year later he had to pull out of the 2004 Athens campaign due to ill-health, and then ruptured his ACL (Anterior Cruciate or knee ligament) playing Australia in the Oceania Cup in 2007.
Bryce has represented Auckland, Canterbury and North Harbour in the New Zealand National Hockey League – one of his career highs scoring the winning goal for North Harbour in the 2007 NHL final. Today he is the assistant coach for the Blacks Sticks side who earned silver at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
It was through the tremendous challenges, combined with the incredible highs of being included in the national squad for the very first time, that he realised the importance of the small gestures that impacted on him.
The overwhelming excitement in his gut and a personal phone call to announce his inclusion – from a leader with the soft skills to enable a young and upcoming player to become great.
What did he need to fulfil his potential? • A good measure of natural talent. • A strong work ethic. • Empathy and the ability to connect
socially. • The ability focus and steer his
competitive drive. • Respect and the ability to stay humble. • A willingness to learn from others. • The ability to lead yourself. • A concerted effort to understand and
build on your strengths. • Continuously asking yourself what makes you tick and building on that.
Leaders are very important to drive teams forward and enable growth and productivity. In sport, as in business, these are the people who set the tone for success.
Often in a team the best player or the most popular person is earmarked for the captaincy. Over many years partaking in a variety of teams, Bryce has seen the value of the right captain or team manager.
The choice, he believes, should be a considered option. A fine balance between ability to perform on the field, empathy to relate to the individual members of the team and a strong character to set a constructive direction.
Everyone on a team brings expertise and value and it’s quite important to develop the leadership skills of every individual. Leadership development programmes to raise the leadership capability of every player is, in sport, as in business, of the utmost importance for success.
Bryce believes the important traits of a successful leader include a combination of strong ethics, empathy, honesty and the ability to lead by example.
The driving force behind the increasing need for soft skills in sports development and in board rooms alike, is the fear of the unknown future of work. How is AI impacting the world of hockey?
Bryce says AI is already playing a pivotal role in New Zealand. He says the sport has embraced the possibilities with a clear willingness to adapt and evolve into an undefined future of sport and work.
AI is definitely not becoming the next player on the field (yet), but it’s already enhancing the experience and adding to the ability to analyse, plan and boost the competitive playing edge.
In hockey the AI technological capabilities are constantly evolving in the form of video support, game and player analytics and information sharing. It empowers better sportsmanship and enables the enforcement of sports codes and policies.
As in any team or business there are growth seasons and the Black Sticks assistant coach seems to be on the road to new things.
Keeping one foot in hockey, it’s also time to spend more time at home with loved ones, whilst rekindling old hobbies, like surfing, fishing and cycling. There’s also the opportunity build on his interests in the financial world and actively pursue leaving a legacy as an environmentalist who made a difference.
His best advice for young players and emerging leaders out there: “I diligently planned, studied and tried to save some money during the fastpaced hockey-playing years. Today these are the enablers for the next step into my future.”
“Sport gathers people from across financial divides and all spheres of society and it may be the first steps to understanding diversity and cultural differences.”