Sports has been a deeply entrenched part of my life since I was a kid. I took my first plane ride when I was eight years old to join a tennis tournament in Cebu. In high school, I was on a basketball court when I got a call informing me that my father was rushed to the hospital because of his cancer. One of the issues that my wife and I had to deal with in the early years of our marriage was my regular 2:00 a.m. appointment with FC Barcelona in our TV room.
As I grew older, sports became for me something bigger than sports. It is no longer a source of entertainment. It is no longer about the competition and the drama. NFL players, owners, and fans are now entangled in an ongoing debate on whether professional football athletes should have the freedom to show their protest against racism by not standing up during the singing of the American national anthem. No less than the President of the United States of America voiced out his displeasure against the perceived lack of respect to the American flag and what it represents. In Spain, FC Barcelona played its league game on October 1 behind closed doors as a sign of protest against the denial of its request to postpone the game. The request was lodged in the midst of Catalonia’s independence referendum as it tries to split from Spain.
Apart from its current collision with politics, my interest in sports has intersected with other fields. When players get traded from one team to another, fans would sometimes voice their displeasure. However, you’ll often hear players say that there should be no hard feelings because at the end of the day, “this is business.”
In sports, a mass indulgence managed like a business, we often see a lot of business practices. Unlike other entities, in which we do not have real-time access to how they work as a team, sports organizations are being managed in full view of the public. Each move is scrutinized, every word spoken by a coach is dissected, and even the body movements of players are interpreted. This real-time transparency gives us then an idea of how these organizations work as a team and how they develop their players to achieve team goals. In my almost three decades of being a sports fan, here are some of the principles that I have tried to adopt in my corporate life.
• Work for a common goal despite ongoing personal feuds.
It was publicly known that Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal did not like each other during their championship run at the turn of the millennium. The lure of winning the championship, though, trumped their mutual dislike of each other. Winning three straight championships despite their personal differences is a testament to their commitment to winning, which is a common goal.
In our work teams, we might not like everyone. We might even despise some of them. However, that should not be a hindrance to the team’s success when we give our best to contribute to that goal.
• Don’t throw anybody under the bus.
When things do not work out according to plan, the coach as the leader of the team often takes responsibility for the team’s failure. In rare moments when the coach publicly passes on the blame to the players, the pundits are often ready to criticize the coach for throwing his players under the bus. This action would sometimes have a residual effect on team chemistry.
There are appropriate ways to give feedback to your teammates and publicly doing so is not one of them. As people often say: Keep the praises public and the reprimands private. Earning goodwill from your teammates and not breaking their trust could go a long way in keeping a team functioning.
• Great athletes work on something during their off-season.
You play to win the games during the season, but winning should start during the off-season. Throughout my “fandom” years, I have observed that great players work as hard during the off-season. For them, they win when they improve a part of their game. Think Federer and his backhand, Michael Jordan with his post-up fade-away jumper, and Kawhi Leonard and his outside shooting. These athletes, although already possessing great talent from the very start, would always find a way to further improve their game. They do not rest on their laurels thinking that they are already great. To stay great, they always add something to their repertoire for the next season.
We, in the corporate world, might not have a clear off-season similar to athletes, but we have seasons during the year when we are not as busy. Those are the times when we need to maximize and plan our own personal growth or development. Identify what those goals and areas for improvement are and intentionally work on them. That’s the only way to remain at the top of our game in our respective fields.
I have shed a lot of tears in my life because of sports, both as a player and as a fan. Hopefully, those tears will not be for naught. Hopefully, lessons have been learned along the way. Hopefully, I have shared them with you as well.
Anton Ng is a partner, Audit & Assurance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 partners and over 850 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For more information, visit our website: www.grantthornton.com.ph.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 18 October 2017