What Field Hockey Has Taught Me About Business  


I recently joined my local field hockey league to get in some much needed team time. I work solo for the most part – admittedly, it gets lonely. This was a great solution. We play one game a week for the summer. My favorite thing about it is the learning I get out of it (as well as the aggression!).

Full disclosure: I’m not a sports person! Please correct me on any misuse of sports jargon.

You have to adapt.

Imagine meeting your team of 15-or-so 15 minutes before the game. That’s a minute to get to know pretty well each person on your team. We used that time to practice, given we were all pretty rusty from last season. The last time I played was 14 months prior. (Also known as, ow!) However, we played really well and won with 2 goals! I was impressed. How did we manage to play so well in such little time? Adaptability: being thrown into some sort of large-scale change and pushing your way through it, with hockey stick in hand.

Small business owners are learning all the time. It’s important that we focus on learning new skills to build our businesses but these opportunities typically come out of left field.

Oh, and, get this: our team from week one was switched in week two so the adaptability continued.

Trust your instinct.

Another thing about meeting your team shortly before game one is that you don’t know who is going to play which position and who is going to play it well. We mapped out positions shortly before the game, but we didn’t know each other’s names well so we had to feel out our passes. My issue when I play sports is that I think too hard and miss major plays. Being thrown into a new team environment put pressure on trusting one’s instinct.

Business is a fast-paced environment. You make major decisions each and every day, like “should I take on that client” or “what task should I complete first?” Trust your instinct and everything will fall into place.

You can’t play every position.

Field hockey is played on a large field with 12 players per team, including the goalie. It’s hard to be everywhere on the field. You need to stay within the confines of your position. The confines will move around a bit, depending on where the ball is on the field, but for the most part, you need to be nearest to the positions beside your own and try not to leave your nook.

In business, I’ve learned that I’m horrible at taxes and I can’t read legal jargon, so it’s important for me to outsource these things. You can’t play every position and you can’t do everything in your business on your own, unless you want to muddle up the game … or the business.

Short corners can happen in business.

In field hockey, a short corner is a penalty given to the defending team in the penalty corner. It also poses as an opportunity for the opposing team, allowing them close range to the net to score. If you play it right, you can have 2 or 3 short corners in a row. It’s basically like watching time repeat itself – pretty cool. In business, you get short corners when mistakes are made or errors occur. Short corners allow businesses to pick up where they fell down and make things better.

What sports rules apply to your business routines and structures?

Start Hanging Around the Water Cooler

If you’re like me, you don’t have a water cooler to hang around – just house cats who wrap around your legs as you trudge through the house to achieve the first goal of the day: chugging your morning coffee. It gets kind of lonesome talking to cats all day. Last week, I took a strategic approach and tried to make my working days (which is well, all 7 days of the week), more social.

Network to get work.

If you aren’t out networking, you should be! There are plenty of opportunities to meet new people in business across the GTA. Use Meetup, Eventbrite or Facebook to find events and this will begin to open up your realm of networking activities as well as build your network. Attend at least one networking meeting a week in order to stay on the scene.

Hold a mobile meeting.

It is great to see people face-to-face even if there’s a screen between you on Skype or Google Hangouts. Try to have a couple of these a week in order to keep your communication skills fresh.

Find a work buddy.

Perhaps a fellow friend or colleague is in the same boat as you are. For me, I consult my writer friend who is always brainstorming new book ideas or has her head glued to her latest screen play. We usually end up at the library or a café near us.

Join a team.

In the absence of having a team element in my life, I decided to join my local field hockey league. I like the idea of working together to achieve something you could not do on your own. It is a once a week commitment and it satisfies my need for group progress.

Consider hiring.

Eventually, I’d like to rent an office space where I can work alongside a small team of social media strategists. For now, I will continue haunting my go-to local cafés throughout the week until they throw me out! However, if you’ve considered contracting someone, perhaps you can work in the same space together.

Stay social.

Plan an event with friends once every week or so. You need the down time and your friends will want to see you just as much.

Enjoy the silence.

There’s nothing wrong with being on your own. Once the initial realization that it is possible to work on your own every day kicks in, it becomes a lot easier to get things done. Just don’t get too introspective about it or lose sight of your initial tasks. There are many great tools for that, such as strategic alarms or time management apps to help get you going.