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Women in Business: Is Playing Sports the Secret to Success?

Playing sports not only helps you stay healthy, feel more energetic and maintain your weight, but it can also help you be a more successful woman in business. At least, that’s what a study conducted by the EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW found.

The survey, Making the Connection: Women, Sport and Leadership, polled 400 women executives, including CEOs and upper management, and found that women who have leadership roles in business are more likely than women in non-leadership roles to have played a sport.

Overall, a whopping 94 percent of the women surveyed have played sports at some point in life, and more than six in 10 say playing sports helped them achieve success in business.

At the C-suite level, the results are even more striking. An astounding 97 percent of those women have played sports at some point, and 52 percent had played at the college level or higher.

What are the most useful leadership qualities sports helped women develop? Motivational skills, team-building skills and the ability to stick with projects until they’re completed top the list. IN addition, nearly three-fourths say being “competitive” helps them succeed as leaders.

“From work ethic to adaptability to superior problem-solving ability, these women enter the work force ready to win,” said Laura Gentile, vice president of espnW, in announcing the results.

If your college days are long behind you, no worries: Playing sports can still help you develop leadership skills you need to reach your business goals. In fact, 53 percent of the women execs in the survey say they still play sports. Being able to relax and unwind, or to concentrate and focus on their work are the top business benefits women cite for continuing to be involved in sports.

Want to enjoy the benefits?

  • Set aside time for sports every day when you know you won’t be interrupted (early mornings work for most execs)
  • Choose a sport that you can do on your own so you won’t be sidetracked by others’ absences. Swimming and running are the most popular sports for women execs.
  • Ease into sports gradually if you haven’t participated for awhile. Going too hard too soon will lead to injuries that sideline you for longer.

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.