It’s been on the calendar since at least last Christmas (maybe earlier; it’s buried in your mind). The boss is sending out an email at least once every couple of days, reminding everyone to mark their calendars for the day after when he’s holding a party for all the losers (little does he know he will likely be one of them). You already bought your tie-dye t-shirt that your team said you had to buy (you didn’t really want one, but it was only $8, and you could always use the extra shirt).
Yes, we are talking about the annual company sports day, that once-in-a-year opportunity to show all of your fellow employees and supervisors that you definitely can still dunk; you just need ample time to warm up (and hey, it’s not your fault they aren’t gonna give you 2 hours to do the necessary leg swings and air squats).
From small businesses to the military to big corporate firms, if you have enough people wherever you work, you’ll likely have something similar to an office sports day at least once a year. On paper, it’s a great time for all of the people in the office to get out of the grind of work for a few hours and enjoy a morning and afternoon of activity, competition, and camaraderie through sport. And the range of what a company sports day is can vary depending on who is in leadership and what the aim of the day is. Employees at Under Armour HQ in Maryland might have a more competitive and prize-oriented sports day filled with games of 5 on 5 basketball and a race around the perimeter of the office. On the other side of the spectrum, the local department of an accounting firm may want to focus primarily on doing team-building activities with structured exercises and lesson plans.
Regardless of the actual nature of your office’s annual day of fun-filled sport, there’s some important things to consider that might contribute to both yours and your partner workers’ day out of the business attire.
First and foremost, don’t blow the day off.
I realize that it can be quite tempting to call in sick or say that you have to deal with an important client at 10 am and you can’t afford to miss the video-conference. While it’s true that no real work is being done as the majority of your department’s work force, to include the upper management, are out throwing around the ol’ pigskin and tearing muscles they didn’t remember they had, it doesn’t give you a free pass to just not show up.
Believe it or not, it’s vital to the success, morale, and health of any company/department to engage in some type of communal engagement outside the confines of the cubicles and the water cooler near the front office. No, I’m not saying you need to be best buds with the guy who makes funny breathing noises as he types or the one girl who says your nose looks funny when you say “good morning” passing by her desk. You don’t need to make that kind of connection. But, having a little bit of interaction outside of work is good. You get to see these people who you associate with the daily grind and just “part of work” as real people who also live real lives. Sports day is a unique occasion where not only do you get to see Ken and Patricia in anything other than business casual, but you also get to talk like regular people and have some fun kicking the soccer ball around while you’re at it.
So you made it out to the field and see all your work compadres already stretching and doing butt-kicks on the sidelines. It’s still pretty early in the day, but you can already start to feel the heat of the sun working its way into the sky. Over to your right, a small group of your coworkers are paying no attention at all to the boss who’s calling everyone over to start. Instead, their attention is glued to their phones and books. This leads me to my next suggestion.
If you’re there, make sure you stay engaged.
It’s likely going to be a nice day outside considering the amount of planning that probably went into this event, so what’s better than playing around outside? And even if it’s not the best weather, the entire office (or what should be the entire office depending on who read my first suggestion…) is out and ready to participate. While it’s certainly a good and necessary thing to attend the actual sports day, its equally good and necessary to be a part of sports day. Just because you are physically present does not preclude you from running on the field or at least cheering everyone on.
Again, I want to stress how special of a day that company sports day can be. Objectively, the actual events being contested or team-building exercises done could be a perceived or actual waste of time and not fun under normal circumstances. But the actual contents of sports day, the real meat and potatoes of the outing, is not the actual sports or games that are played; it’s the fact that those sports and games are being played (or cheered for) by the members of the company. Playing together well can translate to working better together. It’s not an inevitable science, but there’s a good chance it can help.
If you aren’t the sportiest of people, or maybe you’re injured, I still recommend trying to participate in the events to the best of your ability. Go in with an open mind and do your best. If it really isn’t your thing though, or you genuinely can’t play, stick by the sidelines and actively watch and be a good fan. Show your support and cheer on all the girls and guys as they awkwardly fumble around with the basketball and football. They’ll definitely appreciate it and likely play harder in the process, which will keep spirits and morale higher.
Now, let’s get to all of you who fully plan on participating in all of the day’s activities. You’re hydrated, you ate a good breakfast, and your shoes are laced up tight. In all aspects, you’re as ready as can be. I have a couple of tips for all those who are playing to win and want to wipe the smug grin off of the boss’s face as he holds the very shiny trophy and is trash-talking mercilessly at everyone else.
You didn’t come out here just to sit idly by. Like we’ve said before, all EVERYletes are at different skill and fitness levels. A big thing to remember: anyone can try their best and play hard. Jerry might’ve played soccer in college, so obviously he’s gonna be pretty good at dribbling the ball down the field and kicking it towards the net. Does that give you the “okay” to stand around and let him march down unimpeded to get a shot off? Absolutely not. You can and should stick your foot out and toe that ball away from him and run as best you can alongside him. You never know what could happen if you just play hard and try to be competitive. You’re likely better than you thought.
And if you really aren’t, then hey, you’re gonna get a good workout from this whole thing and sweat a little bit while your endorphins are rolling. You’re on the field/court/track, so why not play to win and show your competitive side? Your supervisors and coworkers more than likely will see you in a better light, and it’ll make everything more fun for everyone involved. It will also provide all the attentive fans who aren’t playing a reason to cheer (and a reason to stay engaged in sports day).
There is (I can’t stress this enough) a very wide distinction between giving it your all and giving everyone from the office a headache. What am I talking about, exactly?
Play fair, don’t be arrogant, and don’t be a sore loser.
The above descriptions might fit your personality when it comes to anything remotely related to competition. While that may be the case, the office sports day is really not the time or place for that side of yourself to get exposed to the world. It’s just not gonna look good. Trust me.
If you are playing as hard as you possibly can and really getting after it to secure that win in the touch football game, that’s awesome and you are directly contributing to the overall success of the day. But you need to keep your energy roped in to an appropriate level.
If someone on the other team accidentally bumps you (or purposely), keep your cool and keep playing. Don’t stop the game and proceed to blatantly push the over-zealous guy or girl back and tell them to lay off. That’s not a good look.
If your teammate clearly stepped out of bounds and continues to run and “scores” the touchdown, don’t try to argue with the other people on your team that he was in bounds. Be the bigger guy and take the ball back and start over. I promise that your team will get over it. You’ll also look really good in front of everyone present.
Now for the biggest “if.” If you just so happen to lose in any of the games of the day, please, please, please DO NOT throw a fit and complain about it. A little fire and trash-talk is all well and good, and could be important if you need to fire back at the boss who’s talking just a little too much. But you can’t cross that line of being unreasonable and out of line. No one is going to look at you in a positive light, and you’ll only end up getting labeled as “that guy.”
Don’t be “that guy.”
I wish you all the best for your own company’s sports day and that it may replete with good weather, good vibes, good competition, and a good day off of work. Socialize, compete, and have a good time. It only happens once a year (maybe even longer), so get out there an enjoy it.
You might even get to take the big trophy home too. 😉