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Lessons Sports Can Teach Us

The 2010 Iowa Summer Games are in full swing, with athletes from every county in Iowa taking part. Each year, more than 15,500 Iowans participate in the annual sports festival featuring nearly 70 sports. Iowa Health System has been a sponsor for the last four years.2010-Summer-Iowa-Games 2

The games are not only a showcase of the state’s best amateur talent, but a reminder of how we can constantly raise the bar for our own performance, be it on a personal or organizational level.

Graham Jones, consultant for Olympic and world champions, contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes, and author of the book Thriving on Pressure: Mental Toughness for Real Leaders, provides these lessons business leaders or any individual can learn from sports:

  • Embrace the pressure – Remain calm in difficult situations, and view defeats as an  opportunity for growth.
  • Set small goals – Great change comes from small steps, so set moderate benchmarks and achieve them.
  • Change your mind – When a business is stuck in a rut, it is often due to mindset. Shift paradigms every once in a while to keep ideas fresh.
  • Celebrate victories – Give yourself a pat on the back when a goal is met to keep motivated.

Certainly, team sports and their dynamic of coach involvement offers another whole layer of lessons from which to draw. Tom Steitz took over as Head Coach for the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team when it was dead last in the world in 1988 and later went on to lead the team to gold and silver in this year’s Winter Olympics. Steitz, who is now a leadership consultant working for big companies like Johnson & Johnson and Hewlett-Packard, offers these points as they relate to leadership and teams:

· Create a positive team – Search for talented teammates with good team spirit. Your business will prosper if your employees support one another.

· Build up to large achievements – Require everyone to find a way to constantly improve, regardless of talent level. Tie that improvement to a larger goal and encourage employees to push toward it every day.

· Spend time together – Keep employees are in close contact. As a result they will be more committed to the business’s goals.

Get out and enjoy the Iowa Summer Games this month if you can. If not, there will be many more opportunities to be inspired by amateur sports when collegiate and high school athletics pick up again in the fall.  When you do, you may be inspired by what Jones and Steitz both generally agree on: success is dependent on mindset, taking risks and reaching for the next level.


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