This is my biggest passion in life outside of my family and my businesses. Not only is it enjoyable, but it is something that has been a great help to my career. There are many skills that I have learnt through sport that I have transferred to the world of business.
Probably the most important learning from sport is the concept of working as a team, i.e. for any team to function well, all the individual members need to understand their roles and responsibilities clearly and be able to perform these to a high level for the team as a whole to succeed. As much as this appears to be stating the obvious, good and bad teamwork is all the more measurable when played out in the context of a game where there is a clear winner and loser.
And then there is the balancing act of managing people. Sport taught me that one management style doesn’t work for every person – that the truly great leaders are the ones who are flexible enough to adjust their style in order to get the best out of each person in their team. Long before I had to manage staff in an office environment, I was learning these things the hard way on the cricket field. My experience as a cricket captain has undoubtedly shaped the way I do business.
Beyond the tactical side of sport, there are of course the physical and mental benefits of participating. The Social Science & Medicine journal published a report which showed that physical activity had a direct effect on long-term income and earnings. In a wide-ranging study, researchers found that being physically active positively influenced long-term income, with males who kept to a fitness regime earning some 14-17% more than those who were less active.
This is no surprise to me – a simple run on Wimbledon Common has always worked wonders for my productivity. In fact running is pretty much the only sport I participate in these days, simply because I can do it when I want and I don’t have to co-ordinate with anyone. But I really do miss the camaraderie I used to enjoy when playing for my local teams.
I’ve spent a big portion of my life playing and watching cricket. Although as a player I didn’t get beyond the level of enthusiastic amateur, I certainly took it seriously. For many years I played between the 1st and 2nd XI of my local cricket team, Spencer CC, and also captained the 2nd XI for one season. In recent years I qualified as a level-one cricket coach.
As a watcher, I was hooked the moment I bunked off school to watch the 1979 World Cup semi-final between West Indies and Pakistan at the Oval. Back then, the atmosphere at the Oval was special when the West Indies were in town, helped in no small part by the burgeoning local Caribbean community. Victory for the West Indies was certainly not the result I wanted, but the occasion was something else. And the cricket was too. At the time, it was one of the highest-scoring matches that one-day cricket had ever seen.
For many summers, I was lucky enough to work as a steward at Lords and The Oval, getting paid to watch international cricket… does it get any better than that?
Even though Liverpool were the best team in the country when I started supporting them, the reason for them becoming my team was certainly not anything to do with footballing prowess. It was in fact because of The Osmonds!
Watching TV one day, I saw The Osmonds performing “Long Haired Lover From Liverpool”, so I asked my elder brother why they were singing that song and where Liverpool was, and he said “it’s where the Osmonds come from and somewhere where they have a football team.” And that was it. From the age of 6, they had me hooked. I have been a regular at Anfield for most of my adult life.