3 life lessons learned playing sport

3 life lessons learned playing sport – by Nick Phipps

As a lifelong fan, I get so much joy from watching sports, even ones I’ve never played. Roger Federer’s backhand? I could watch that all day. Billy Slater’s playmaking? I did watch that (almost) all day once – every one of his 187 tries, back-to-back in a Fox Sports package to celebrate his retirement.

There’s the playful dominance of Usain Bolt (the sprinter, not the soccer player) or, by contrast, the humble and respectful way that Johnathan Thurston went about it (even if he is a Queenslander!). Each champion reminds us that sport is a spectacle filled with speed, skill, power, tactics and pressure. The sporting field is also a great place to learn some important life lessons, and as I’ve found, there is no better way to experience that first-hand than as a member of a team.

Some of the greatest life lessons I have learned have come in the middle of a game, or watching an epic sporting contest on the television. These lessons, I believe, have shaped me into the person I am today.

I’m thinking about life lessons because I’m at the stage in my life where I get to start thinking about having kids (as I write, my wife, Ebony, is 22 weeks pregnant with our first child). I don’t think there is any better way for children to learn how to deal with life’s highs and lows than on the sporting field in a team. These are the three reasons I would be encouraging any children that might be in my future to participate in a team sport (and no, not necessarily rugby!):

Learning how to lose

In recent years I have had more exposure to this particular life lesson than I would like, and I wouldn’t wish the pain of defeat on anyone else. It’s just that no matter who you are or how well you prepare, there’s always going to be someone on their day who will be better than you. You learn how you deal with it. Being a good sport, shaking hands, saying ‘well done’ after a game is part of learning that life isn’t always perfect, and you don’t always get a medal just for showing up on the day. It’s a lesson that also applies at work – if you didn’t get that deal done or hit your yearly targets, I get it, it’s disappointing. You could throw your toys and blame everything and everyone else, or you could own it and find a way to improve. Put a smile on your face and let people know your life isn’t dictated by the win and loss columns.

Working together

Performing a role as part of a team teaches selflessness, strategic planning and teamwork. To illustrate this, I’m going to give a shout-out to some rugby forwards (if they could only read, I’m sure they would be pretty chuffed!). To be a good forward in our game you need to be truly selfless. They are always at the bottom of rucks, running into brick walls and getting bashed up – solely so the backs can play in a dinner suit and get all the glory. Sometimes I honestly wonder why they put themselves through it. It’s purely because they want what’s best for the team – they do their job so that we can do ours. At work, a high-profile fund management team might have a group of lawyers, analysts and traders all toiling behind the scenes to help to do their job, which is to make money for the firm. There’s a major difference between teams whose players look after their own interests, and the ones who work together towards group success.

Achieving goals

There is nothing more rewarding than setting a goal that is out of reach, doing the work, and achieving that goal. You wouldn’t appreciate it nearly so much if it was just given to you. Working towards it, on the other hand, is pure bliss. What do you think is the difference between a ‘Mad Monday’ when you’ve won the title, or missed the finals? I can tell you there’s no more glum feeling than not even featuring in finals and being out “celebrating”. I can also tell you from first-hand experience that there is no better feeling than a party after winning a premiership. That’s because it is directly measured on the planning and work you have done across a season towards your goal. That doesn’t change whether it’s a Super Rugby title, a Shute Shield premiership, a record profit year for your company, or a Sydney West under-nine comp title. It’s not the fact that you won the Sydney West U9 title, it’s that you achieved your goals.

So, get involved in a team sport – whether it’s the touch comp down at Centennial park or the local soccer club – and learn all the lessons, win or lose. Get your kids involved, too. I’m not spruiking for rugby union, although it is the superior game in the world (obviously). I don’t mind what sport you are involved in, just enjoy the journey as you learn some of life’s great lessons!