Common Purpose / 27 October 2023

3 Reasons Why Team Sport – Whether You Play Or Watch - Can Teach Us A Thing Or Two About Purpose

80 minutes in the game, lifelong lessons gained.



Our favourite sportspeople are no strangers to pressure. Every time they walk onto the pitch, they’re undoubtedly aware of the fact they have a legion of fans willing them to win. This pressure is immense for each and every team member, and it’s even harder to navigate when the game’s final result doesn’t go their way.

In spite of this, we all know what our favourite sportspeople do, win or lose: They keep going. They keep learning. They keep pushing. They keep trying. Why? Because each and every game they play pushes them towards their purpose. That purpose might be to achieve excellence in their sport, or to experience the thrill of the competition and overcoming the physical challenges it presents. Some love being part of the community a sport can create, and their playing a big role in contributing to that gives them a sense of purpose. For other sportspeople, their purpose is focussed on leaving behind a legendary legacy – Hall of Fame, anyone?

And no matter what their specific purpose is, sportspeople navigate that journey much like any of us. They try their best to utilise each experience (whether that’s during a gruelling game or a skill-building training session) to learn more and to get better than they were the game before, or the season prior. This is what can take them from being a good sportsperson, to a great one.

The real-life parallels to our own journeys of purpose can easily be drawn – whatever your personal purpose might be. Here, we look at the surprising ways team sport teaches us crucial lessons about following our purpose. 

1. You need the support of others  

In a game of professional rugby, forwards will find themselves deep in the nitty gritty of rucks and mauls against the defending opposition, thus enabling the backs of the team the opportunity to manoeuvre the ball to the try line with less obstacles in their way. The varying skill sets of these players are essential – each in their own way, because without them, the ball is unlikely to make it to the line. The more frequently sports teams work together to achieve these short-term wins, the better they will become, ultimately driving towards their purpose.

Similarly in life, many of us might try to do things alone (and we can do this to certain degrees of success) but learning from and utilising the niche skill-sets of others can take you much further towards your purpose.

Being open to diverse perspectives, knowledge and the skill sets of those around you may well provide you with a faster path to success, or they at least will be there to help to clear obstacles as you progress through your journey. 

2. Understanding our differences and harnessing them for good… makes all the difference 

The single most important thing a sporting team must do is learn how to work together. If one player doesn’t fully understand why another player must perform in a certain way, thus not utilising the strengths they bring, the efficacy of the team comes crashing down - no smooth journey to the goal post is in sight.

The same thing goes for anyone who is striving towards their purpose. It’s important not only to accept and seek the support of others in order to move forwards, but to also adopt a learning mindset so you can understand their unique skill sets and points of view. By learning how to work with different types of people, in turn broadening your horizons to new perspectives and ways of working, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Once you have an understanding of how your support team works, and why each individual’s strength is crucial to the overall outcome, you can harness this to move towards your purpose more efficiently, and potentially much faster.  

3.  … In saying that, don’t dwell on the clock 

No matter how much you yell at your TV, or your fellow teammates on the pitch, the clock will not speed up, and nor will it stop. Time is something we cannot control, so trying to force or rush something before it’s truly ready will do you no favours.

Instead, utilise the time you know you have – whether it takes 20 minutes gain a three-try lead, or a full 80 minutes before you score the winning drop goal, which could lead to a World Cup win, which could lead to your name in a Hall of Fame… if you keep trying and allowing yourself to learn lessons with each game you play, you’re still moving towards your purpose.

In life, it’s important to remember that time is not a calculator of success – but the way in which you use that time can be. Don’t force things before they’re ready, instead, harness your surroundings to get you to where you want to be in the time that feels comfortable and manageable to you. That might take one year, it might take five years, or it might take a lifetime, what matters is the learnings and growth you allow yourself to experience in that journey to full-time. The clock is yours – use it wisely. 


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