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Sports in the Office: How to Make Sure You Have Your Bases Covered

By Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire

The fact that sports has its own daily section in every major newspaper tells you something about its significance in our society, and it's an ideal icebreaker in many business settings, especially when peers are unaware of any other common ground.

Most businessmen follow some aspect of sports closely, and they're passionate about it. As a woman in business you don't have to follow every score, player, or stat, nor do sports have to be your cup of tea, but you're likely to be perceived as out of the loop if you don't know who won the World Series or the Super Bowl. The benefits extend far beyond being on the same playing field as men. Women today are actively engaged in sports on all levels and have found a tremendous amount of satisfaction from the spectator's side as well as that of the participants, especially in golf, tennis, cycling, and skiing. Becoming interested in sports is exciting and invigorating. Plus, learning about sports allows you the opportunity to understand a variety of games, businesses, and passions. It connects you to people's interests while also helping you to develop new hobbies and interests of your own.

Jump-start your own game plan by developing a baseline level of sports knowledge so that you can talk the talk and get started. If a new colleague says he's from Massachusetts, you can hit it off with him by asking if he's a Red Sox fan. Similarly, if your local team is in the NBA play-offs, there's no excuse not to be able to share in this excitement.

To ace the essentials of asking about a peer's or a colleague's interest in sports without getting bogged down in details, concentrate on a two-fold focus that includes both local teams and national events:

  • Get to know your home turf. Make a habit of reading the headlines in the sports pages every day or tuning in to the sports segment of your local television or radio news to learn how your local teams are performing. Be able to name the football, basketball, and hockey teams in your area in case you're asked about them. In addition to know the star players, as a businessperson you'll want to pay particular attention to leadership challenges or changes in team ownership and coaching staffs.
  • Pay attention to the big leagues. There is a handful of world and national sporting events that capture the headlines and the interest of our country. Among the most important to follow: the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA finals, the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, the Masters, the Stanley Cup, and the Kentucky Derby. Focus on top performers and any controversial calls.

While familiarity with these events requires dedicated effort, the payoff can be enormous in terms of forging meaningful business relationships. Knowledge of sports gives you plenty of ways to grease the conversational wheels, and you'll earn the respect of new colleagues, especially the men, when you ask about their favorite teams. You'll also feel better connected to individuals who are complete sports fanatics. And the sporting world just might gain a brand-new fan when you discover that it can be fun and enjoyable.

Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire and the Workplace Contributor on ABC's Good Morning America. Connect with her at

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