Does sport actually help you in the real world?

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We all know that taking part in a sport is one of the best ways of improving your health and fitness, as well as potentially boosting your career prospects. From a young age we are encouraged by parents and teachers alike to take part in activities outside the conventional school curriculum, and particularly, sport. Being at university gives us more scope to make our own choices about whether to and what to get involved with outside of our academic studies. There are plenty of sporting activities to choose from, whether as a complete beginner or an experienced player. Yet does taking part in a sport actually help you when it comes to finally entering the real world?

As someone about to graduate, who has enjoyed taking part in sport across my three years at Lancaster, this is something that has crossed my mind a number of times. The Wednesdays spent crisscrossing the country to BUCS matches, the hours spent training and the highs and lows of winning and losing matches – to what extent will having taken part in a sport at university actually help me to get my first job after graduation?

The Management School recently published an interview with Paul Taylor, President and Chief Executive of leading global ratings agency the Fitch Group, who says that captaining Lancaster University’s Fencing Team gave him his first job in finance. Taylor argues that as a captain he ‘developed leadership and tactics, and the ability to hold his own, make fast decisions and get on with a team’. In other words, Fencing provided him with the skills employers often look for.

Of course, simply playing a sport, not only captaining, helps you to develop many of these skills. Aside from the obvious benefits such as increased fitness and health, sport provides us with teamwork, perseverance, commitment, strategy and increased communication, to name but a few. During all those hours training, subconsciously, we gain important skills, transferable skills (to use the dreaded phrase), that will ultimately aid us in whatever career we choose to pursue.

One of the most fascinating points of the article is the highlighting of Taylor’s interview for his first job with Lloyds Bank in which ‘the regional head of Lloyds was also a keen fencer’ and that he’s ‘sure that’s why I got the job’. Perhaps it was the interviewer’s knowledge of the skills the interviewee had gained from fencing which aided Taylor getting the job. Obviously a fair amount of luck is involved for your interviewer to share your interests. However, such a coincidence occurring helps you build rapport with your interviewer and can increase your confidence as an interviewee which will help you deal with the more difficult aspects of the interview.

Ultimately, enjoying and taking part in a sport is just one way of picking up the vital skills that employers look for. Extra activities give you a talking point in your interview beyond the academic and job related subjects and a chance to build rapport with your potential employer. So have the countless hours spent on coaches, the improved sporting performance and endless running up and down pitches all been worth it? For many final year students, it’s time to find out….


Claire Starr

SCAN Sports Editor 2014-15

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