Why Sports are Worth Talking About at Work

Published: Sep 02, 2015

 Consulting       MBA       Networking       Workplace Issues       
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Andrew Faircloth and Brent Macon were management consultants for three years (Andrew with Bain & Co., Brent with McKinsey & Co.). They started Primer Sports in August to help outgoing professionals use sports to connect with people in the workplace and beyond. Both are first-time entrepreneurs. Over the coming weeks, they will discuss some of the issues they have faced so far in their journey from consultants to entrepreneurs, and how their career experiences to date have helped them.

Sports are a great social lubricant; a cultural framework that allows professionals to self-identify and connect with others. Consulting was our first real-world job experience, and we quickly found that most 'how was your weekend?' conversations centered around one of three things: kids, weather, and sports.

We couldn’t relate to having kids, and the weather as a topic gets dry fast. Sports, on the other hand, were a common ground that we consistently used to form and solidify relationships with colleagues and clients alike. A known sports interest can become a go-to conversation starter when seeing someone at work, whether you’re discussing their alma mater, hometown team, or Fantasy team performance.

Talking sports in the office to build rapport is hardly a novel concept, but we believe there are some commonly-held misconceptions. When we were deciding to launch Primer, part of our due diligence was talking to hundreds of busy professionals about their sports-fan habits, and here are two of our surprising but consistent takeaways:

Many people don’t know as much about sports as you might think

The 24/7 sports media onslaught makes it seem as though everyone is constantly reading their Twitter feed, checking their Fantasy team(s), and closely following the latest news about their favorite teams. In reality, people are busy. Life gets in the way of watching sports on the weekend.

You don’t need to be an expert to chime in and add value to a sports conversation

General awareness of a story, a fun fact, or a timely question to ask someone who knows more about an issue can help someone be part of the sports banter at work without feeling left out. Some great conversationalists we spoke with don’t know a ton about sports, but make sure to ask their colleagues that do what they thought about the headline stories from the weekend.

Regardless of your level of knowledge, here are some easy-to-follow tips for upping your conversational ability, and how we used them when we were consultants:

Make it a habit

Even if you have fewer than 2 minutes a day to spend on sports, scan the headlines of the sports news publication that’s most relevant to you. For us, this meant reading the sports section in the city of our projects.

Set a Google alert

If there’s a team/league/issue that’s particularly important to someone in your life, set an alert and get a daily news update. We did this regularly for a client’s favorite team. 

Share your own fandom

This is a two-way street; people want to talk to you about your school or hometown team. We let clients know we were fans of our alma mater (go Tar Heels) and they brought it up regularly.

Our goal with Primer Sports is to equip our readers to always have a sports conversation topic in their repertoire. We try to add context and a backstory to news topics to make it clear why they’re interesting and conversational. Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing some of our reflections as first-time founders and how we’ve used the consulting toolkit in our new entrepreneurial roles. We hope you’ll enjoy following, and we’d love to hear from you with thoughts, questions, or ideas.

Brent and Andrew can be contacted at Primerteam@primersports.com