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Sport on Saturdays: 7 good reasons to know something about sport.

Paula
Paula

 

By PAULA WARD

I love sport – watching it, playing it and talking about it. I also happen to be a woman. There’s nothing unusual in that. However, when business and sport collide it’s often considered to be the domain of men.

I worked in human resources for an investment bank for eight years and the professional services sector for eleven years so I heard a lot of sports talk. Now, I spend my time running workshops and writing sporting pocket guides to teach people the fundamentals of Australian sports. 101 workshops and cheat sheets, so to speak, to enable people to learn about some of our most popular sports.

Now I know this may not seem to be a career transition that makes much sense on face value but it works for me. I’ve found a career that marries my passion for sport with the professional skills I honed in the male-dominated corporate corridors of the finance world.

But, how did it come about?

A few years ago I was sitting in a pub with friends after work one day, when a very non-sporting friend pointed to the TV screen which showed the Socceroos playing at the FIFA (call it football or soccer) World Cup in Johannesburg and said “I’m meant to be there.” Three of us swiveled around with a collective, “What?” She explained that her global CEO had been in the country a few days before and had asked ten people from the Asia-Pacific region to accompany him to South Africa for the World Cup. She had said no to the invitation! We incredulously asked why, to which she shrugged and said she didn’t know the rules and wasn’t going to look like some sort of idiot in front of her boss. Can you believe it!?!

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I was aghast. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe it. Knowing my enthusiasm for all things sport, I asked why she didn’t ask me to get her up-to-speed. She said rather simply, she just didn’t think to. I could have easily explained the offside rule, scoring, penalty shoot outs, sudden death and the like to her.

Sport
Know the Game aims to level the playing field so that everyone knows the rules of the game.

And, so the idea for my business, Know The Game, was born. Never did I want a friend to let a lack of sporting knowledge prevent him/her from taking every opportunity presented to network, get involved and build relationships with key executives, clients and colleagues.

My years of playing and watching sport was suddenly relevant to my career.

In creating Know The Game my aim has been to level the playing field and let everyone know enough about our local sports to be able to take advantage of the benefits that come from mixing business with sporting banter.

It’s evolved and while still centred on inclusion, the focus is now broader – it’s about work with colleagues and clients, home with family and friends and being a part of your local community. I don’t want people to be left standing on the sidelines feeling like they can’t participate.

Sport is a natural topic of conversation for me. With a Dad, a brother and six uncles the sporting banter is never far away in our family. You may say mum and I never had a chance of anything but loving sport but we’ve both played sport from a young age and are compelled to play, watch and talk about it.

I know a number of you won’t think sport is exciting and won’t relish the idea of spending time talking about it but here’s what comes with the territory when you talk sport at work:

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1.  Increased rapport with executives. Let’s face it, sport provides a ready conversation topic with most men and men fill most of the spots on our leadership teams. Being able to talk about the weekend’s game or the sporting headline of the day gives them an easy reference point to start a conversation. Once the discussion has kicked off, it’s easier to build an affinity with your leaders and enable them to get to know you better.

2. Broader exposure to the business. A lot of clients and suppliers – particularly in the corporate arena – love talking about their favourite footy code or the latest sporting disaster playing out in the media. No one wants to talk about work all the time and it’s never a good look to say “I don’t like sport” or “I don’t know”. Sport, like many hobbies and interests, should be another string to your bow. You don’t need to be a fanatic, just know enough to be able to talk about it if that’s what your client wants to do. And, talking to clients inevitably means getting a better understanding of their business and how your business services their needs. This knowledge can only work in your favour.

3. Strengthened respect from colleagues… if sport is often the reference point for water cooler conversations or pre-meeting banter, be part of it. Being approachable and at ease with a wide range of topics, helps build relationships with your colleagues. Rightly or wrongly, when you’re happy to be involved in these type of general conversations, you’ll find your colleagues are more willing to come to you with questions or to seek your help on work matters. Your reputation builds from here.

"parents so they feel more comfortable talking about sport with their kids"
“I’ve broadened the business to run events for parents so they feel more comfortable talking about sport with their kids.”

4. Improved visibility within your organisation. If you’re talking to your clients, colleagues and leaders, you’re on the radar when it comes to other opportunities. Sure, you’ll need to stand on your own two feet in terms of ability but you need to be seen to have a chance. Too often, women think if they work hard someone will notice them and give them a promotion. Unfortunately, it rarely works that way.

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And, you never know, you may just start to like sport. There’s a reason sport resonates with so many people in Australia. It’s compelling. It’s entertaining. It’s worthy of debating. It stirs passions and makes for easy bonding. Know The Game was built to focus on corporate organisations, however over the last three years, I’ve broadened the business to run events for:

5. Parents so they feel more comfortable talking about sport with their kids, the teachers and other parents (and won’t be yelling out the wrong thing at the wrong time);

6. Multicultural groups to de-mystify our local sports and assist them to appreciate and enjoy our sporting culture; and

7. Women’s networks which are often motivated by work reasons but I’ve also been told it’s quite helpful stuff to know on the dating scene!

And for those that still think they can’t face a workshop about sport, I’ve designed the perfectly sized cheat sheet to hide in your purse or slip into your jeans pocket… they’re compact sporting pocket guides so you’ll know the basics of the game. You can read up on the way to the contest or give yourself a reminder when you’re standing in a queue waiting for a glass of wine or to have a bathroom break.

Whether I’m presenting at an industry conference, running a workshop around a boardroom table or hosting a wine and cheese night for the local P&C, I’m sharing my passion for sport with others so they can get in on the conversation. I believe sport is a great leveler but, more importantly, it’s an avenue by which social cohesion can be achieved.

I currently cover AFL, cricket, football, golf, netball, rugby league, rugby union and Spring Carnival horse racing but feel free to let me know if you want other sports added to our offering because I want everyone to engage, learn, be included and know the game.

know the gamePaula Ward is founder and director of Know The Game, a business focused on educating people about Australia’s most popular sports. Through workshops and sporting pocket guides, the emphasis is to assist people who have not grown up watching or playing Australian sports and now find themselves in a work or social situation where sport is frequently discussed. You can follow, like, link, or subscribe to their free e-news, From The Sidelines.

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Editor’s note: This is not a sponsored post. We just think this idea is rather awesome.

And in other sports news from the week…

– It has been announced that the WNBL (Women’s National Basketball League) and The Opals (our women’s national basketball team) will both recieve more free-to-air TV coverage. The ABC is expanding its coverage of the WNBL to a two-hour program every Saturday, and every Opals match in Australia will also be broadcast live. They’re also hoping to screen more international games in the countdown to the basketball world championships in 2014.

– Aussie Opals player Lauren Jackson has signed on the play with a Chinese basketball club for the season, in an attempt to prepare for next year’s world championships. She’ll be joining Women’s Chinese Basketball Association side Heilongjiang Shenda for a year, instead of going back to play for the WNBL’s Canberra Capitals broke down.

– The National Women’s Wheelchair Basketball League competition has wrapped up; the Be Active Western Stars defeated the sSacks Goudkamp Bears with a score of 43 – 40.

– The Australian Diamonds netball team will play the first Constellation Cup Test against the New Zealand Silver Ferns on Sunday. Their coach, Lisa Alexander, will also be selecting the team’s starting line-up for the trans-Tasman series opener.

If you’d like to watch the Constellation Cup test matches (there are five in total) – they will be broadcast live on SBS across September and October. Tune in for the first one at 5:30pm on Sunday.

– Speaking of women’s sport on television – there’s not enough of it. That’s a fact. And it’s important, especially for young girls, to see images of strong, fit and healthy women they can look up to.

The Women’s Game, Australia’s leading women’s soccer website, is hoping to produce a weekly series covering the W-League. To show you what they’re capable of, they’ve produced this pilot episode. Presented by former Australian international, Sarah Walsh, it’s a lively, informative and more than a little hilarious:

(The team at The Women’s Game are all volunteers with regular day jobs. To make this show happen, they need a little cash to cover the production cost of the 15 week series. If you want to, you can pledge your support here: http://sportaroo.com/TWGTV)

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