Women Can Balance Sports and Work

Whether you were a jock in high school or the girl who felt awkward in gym class, there are myriad ways to tap your inner Venus, Serena or Mia so you can connect with colleagues through sports.

You can score big both personally and professionally by getting in the game. Improved physical fitness, enhanced self-confidence, and stronger relationships can all be achieved through participation in women's sports teams, which typically meet in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate any busy working girl's schedule.

Many former college and pro players know that lessons learned from the playing field can be leveraged in the workplace. By participating in sports and physical activity, men and women develop skills that become effective in both the personal and professional arenas. Being physically active in any environment and at any level improves confidence, competitive experiences, work ethic and social abilities that are beneficial for overall well-being.

Lara Hall, a New York-based marketing executive, who was introduced to soccer at age 6 by her dad, now plays in a competitive women's league. "What I've learned through sports has helped me in my career. The other women are fiercely competitive, but they are also extremely supportive," said Hall, who believes this is true on the field and in the office. "They will take you aside and tell you what you could be doing better."

To mix things up, Hall's teammate, Mary Lawton, plays soccer in the summer and basketball in the winter months, which she said has also made her a better colleague and manager in the workplace.

"Being on a sports team forces you to work with people on a completely different level than you're accustomed day to day," the public relations professional said. "You have to function with them regardless of personal feelings."

"One of the best things about playing on a soccer team is the escape it provides from all the stressors in my life," Hall said. "Once I'm on the field, all I think about is the ball and winning. I completely forget about the nagging work project on my desk, or the bills waiting to be paid at home. It's a much-needed break from my regular life."

On the flip side, Hall said the release she got on the field enabled her to focus more effectively on her work responsibilities when she's on the job. "My participation in sports enables me to feel refreshed and energized when I'm in my office."

Amanda Donikowski, a business manager for a small company, turned to sports when looking to build camaraderie among her colleagues.

"I convinced my co-workers to play competitive dodgeball one night a week. Since we were all novices in an intermediate league, we didn't win much on the court, but we certainly won in the office through enhanced relationships and sportsmanship."

Look for a League, and Recruit Colleagues

You can usually find a league by asking friends for referrals. If you're new to an area, a basic Google search will likely produce results in a range of sports in your area (think tennis, swimming, volleyball, golf and much more) with teams catering to all levels -- novice to pro. You don't even have to worry about climate since there's something for all seasons. You'll not only get the physical benefits through a great workout, you'll also meet new people and expand your circle of friends.

Start a team with colleagues. Recruit six to eight people in your office who are ready to step up to the plate. Suggest a sport that everyone likes, or one that nobody has tried. From basketball to bowling to billiards, you can create a weekly schedule for a 10-week period for games at a convenient location. Keep track of the scores and honor all of your MVPs with a fun dinner at the end of your newly created season. Whether your employer has 10 people or 10,000, it's an ideal way to get in the game.

For more information on strategies and events for your career advancement in 2006, or to connect with Tory Johnson, visit www.womenforhire.com.