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Kindness in Sports - Find something nice to say

business communication Nov 04, 2021

If you’ve jumped on the Ted Lasso bandwagon you know it is possible to be kind and competitive at the same time.

It’s a scripted show with a Hollywood storyline but I’ve actually worked with coaches who are that kind. I’ve seen fans be the ultimate encouragers. I’ve experienced entire communities rally around sports.

And after 20 years in sports broadcasting, I’ve seen the opposite.

I’ve heard fans yelling profanities at teenagers and try to explain their bad behavior by saying sports is their escape. Claiming you’re a different person at a game than you are at work is a convenient cop out, but it’s not true. You are the same person on game day as you are every other day of the week. The environment is different, but you are an extension of the same person. That’s why it’s important to be as intentional with your fandom as you are in your business relationships. This is all part of your brand.

As someone who attends sporting events and talks sports for a living, I know there is a way to be a fan with grace, kindness and respect – even if you’re yelling at the top of your lungs.

Kindness is a choice. It doesn't matter if you are at a sporting event of sitting at your desk. Here are six ways to practice kindness as a sports fan and carry it into your workplace.

 

  1. Cheer for your team, not against the other team. It’s a small but big thing. Spend more time focusing on the reason you’re a fan in the first place – your favorite team or player. Cheering against the other team doesn’t make you a more loyal fan of your team. It makes you a jerk. 

Work correlation: Instead of putting down the competition, highlight the strengths and/or expertise you and company bring to the table.

 

  1. Ask a fan about their favorite team. Asking the fan wearing Detroit Red Wings gear at a Seattle Kraken game why they cheer for Detroit is a great conversation starter. When you get to know the people around you, the experience is often better for all involved. You can show an interest in someone else’s team without betraying your own fandom. It’s called being polite.

Work correlation: You might not share the same interests, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask about things your colleagues are passionate about. It’s a necessary skill for building relationships.

 

  1. Compliment the opponent. It doesn’t take much effort to acknowledge a great play or a big time score. It can however make a huge difference in the tone of a conversation. You hear athletes and coaches “tip their cap” all the time when talking about opponents.

Work correlation: Find something nice to say about your colleagues, managers or competition. Be prepared with a compliment instead of criticism.

 

  1. Choose your words and reactions carefully. The way you talk about a game, outcome or coaching decision is a direct reflection of you and how you respond to situations at work. If you’re willing to say ugly things about an athlete you’ve never met, whose job it is to entertain you, I can only imagine what you’ll say about other people in your life.

Work correlation: You can be disappointed in an outcome without being a jerk. There is always a respectful way to give feedback. Choose to act like a professional.

 

  1. Respect other fans. One of the most inspiring elements of sports is the ability to bring people together as part of a community. Treat members of that community with respect. You don’t have to cheer for the same team, see eye-to-eye on a big free-agent signing or agree on the best player of all time. Show up with the intention of listening and respecting other fans.

Work correlation: Diversity of thought and inclusivity requires the ability to listen to colleagues with different experiences and backgrounds. Practice by listening to fans with different opinions and backgrounds.

 

  1. Be courteous. If you’re at a sporting event let someone out of a row first, hold open a door, throw away your trash. Simple actions can change the experience for you and others.

Work correlation: Common sense manners go a long way in showing kindness. 

 

You can treat sports fandom as a hobby/pastime, or you can use it to enhance your personal brand and practice the communication skills that cultivate more kindness at work. Because a little kindness goes a long way.

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