As an entrepreneur, you have as many responsibilities to your employees as you do to your clients, partners, and shareholders. After all, without your employees, there’s no way you’d be able to do everything on your own. You can improve employee morale and retention with practical benefits, like higher salaries, insurance plans, and other perks, but in the long run, these monetary benefits aren’t the most important thing to employees.

Instead of focusing your efforts on direct rewards, consider a program with more subjective benefits—like creating your own company sports team. Aside from being a fun bit of recreation, uniting your employees in a sports league has tremendous benefits for your organization (and everyone in it).

The Benefits of a Company Sports Team

There’s a reason we’re so obsessed with participating in sports, even from an early age; organized sports are an institution for exercise, teambuilding, communicating, practicing, and working toward goals. Establishing your own team, or even your own league, can lend the following benefits:

  1. Better employee health. Poor health conditions cause employees to miss work—the productivity losses alone cost businesses $225.8 billion every year, on top of increased health insurance expenses. You can’t force your employees to engage in healthier lifestyles, but you can gently encourage them to, and give them more opportunities to do so. Starting a company sports team encourages your workers to be more active, and even eat healthier. If your employees participate consistently, they’ll feel better, get in better shape, and be at reduced risk for many illnesses.
  2. Team dynamics. There’s no denying the importance of sports in the art of teambuilding. Your employees will be working together, balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses on the field and communicating plays and strategies to one another. It’s the perfect opportunity to hone leadership, get to know each other, and get used to working together—all without the direct pressure of being in a workplace environment.
  3. Competitive employees. It doesn’t hurt that your employees get to show their competitive sides. Participating in sports gives your employees an intrinsic motivation to succeed; the thrill of beating a tough opponent is often its own reward. When they get comfortable being competitive in a sports environment, setting goals and working hard to achieve them, it’s easier for them to bring that competitive spirit to the workplace—especially when they’re surrounded by the same people they just won or lost with.
  4. Brand identity and loyalty. When playing on behalf of the company, your team members will all be unified in wearing and representing your brand. That simple act can give people a stronger sense of identity within your organization, and promote greater loyalty to the brand. Ultimately, that could lead to higher employee retention, and a greater commitment to the brand’s core values.
  5. When playing in a competitive corporate league, you’ll also get the opportunity to network with other companies—many of which are similar to yours. Your employees can mingle with theirs, and you might find some new opportunities for partnerships, or even clients in the process.
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If you already have a company sports team in place, you may also be able to cite it as an additional perk to new prospective employees. When interviewing candidates, you can reference the team, showing your brand’s commitment to employee well-being and the sense of fun you add to the workplace.

How to Get Started

If you’re sold on the concept and you want to get started, there are a few ways to move forward. The easiest is to find a company sports league that’s already in existence, and pass around a signup sheet so your employees can join. You can usually find a recreational league through your local YMCA or sports organization, or even through Meetup.com. Make sure it’s clear that performance isn’t mandatory, but is encouraged, and include everyone, regardless of their current athleticism. Designate a captain, or take on the role yourself, to organize practices and pre-game and post-game parties, and start enjoying the benefits of playing together along with working together.

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