Are People at the Centre of your Game?

The sporting landscape in Australia is constantly changing and evolving. How an organisation responds to change and whether it is equipped to embrace opportunities for growth will depend on how much time and energy is spent nurturing the life-blood of sport – its people.

Business leaders commonly use examples of sporting teams when discussing great teamwork and how to develop high performing cultures to maximise potential. This is because any sporting team or high performance environment has a very clear focus on getting the right people to be part of the team; be it players, coaches, or support staff. They are driven to achieve the best they can at any level.

However, if we turn our focus to off the field and to the strategic and operational people behind the face of sport and sporting teams, this is where the real ‘people challenge’ lies. Those responsible for the operational delivery of sport can often be overlooked by sporting organisations when it comes to providing adequate support or professional development. There are many reasons for this including lack of financial resources, limited staffing resources, and increasing workloads. The end result is that many sports are ‘people resource poor’.

From the outside, a position within a sporting organisation can be perceived as exciting and very rewarding. Those not in the industry often comment on how much fun it seems and how great it would be to be involved with elite athletes and teams. However, a colleague and very experienced sports leader has often said to me: “I love the flexibility of working in sport, you get to choose any 90 hours a week to work”.

While this quote may seem amusing in many ways it highlights the challenges facing many sporting organisations and the people who choose to work in this amazing industry. These challenges are not only financial, but also organisational; they can be linked but are not necessarily so.

As Boards evolve and become more professional, those working in sport face increasing demands to deliver better quality programs and a higher level output. To grow and succeed an organisation must keep pace with the changing environment and be properly equipped to deal with any challenges these changes may bring. Developing the people who will deliver on the strategic objectives must be part of any sporting organisation’s plan or there is a real risk of missing opportunities for growth.

So how can sport with limited funds, lots of work pressure and an evolving professional environment focus on developing people capacity and capability?

Small steps can make a real difference. Taking time to assess the current staffing model and the capability of a team against the strategic objectives is the first step. Once this platform has been set it can then be used to align people resources to meet focussed outcomes.

The main question to consider is whether the organisation has the right people capabilities to deliver? If not, some hard decisions need to be made. Taking the time to invest in finding the right fit for a sport’s strategic outcomes can often mean undertaking an internal review or ‘health check’ of the organisation and being open to re-evaluating the mix of skills and experience required.

People are the most valuable resources in any sport. A high percentage of funds is invested in wages and salaries, yet do we invest enough in developing, supporting and nurturing them? Many sports focus on providing a career or opportunities for athletes following their sporting career. However, is there enough time and resources spent on developing our people capacity and capability off the field?

Having a streamlined team both on and off the field can transform your sport into a successful thriving organisation. Without the right support team your on-field team can suffer, and without the right support and guidance your off-field team can suffer. This could then lead to a downward spiral that affects your organisation as a whole and prevents you from capitalising on opportunities for growth.

When was the last time you stopped, took a breath and had a close look at your sport’s capacity and capability to deliver against your organisations strategic deliverables?

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