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  • Sports for Schmoozing

    Beyond Golf, 5 Other Sports for Schmoozing
    Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

    Golf is still the world's number one corporate sport. But with a more diverse workforce, that's interested in a wider variety of recreational pursuits, it's no longer the only game in town. While they've yet to rival golf in popularity, here are five sports that are emerging as favorites among today's executives:

    Basketball. More and more customer relationships are being cemented not over martinis on the 19th hole, but over a Gatorade and a jump shot! Gyms and athletic clubs say court-usage over the past five years has nearly doubled. The game is biggest among males ages 35 to 50, but an increasing number of younger women are showing up, too.

    Proponents say it's a lot better exercise and there's far less pressure because you're sweating it out with a group, rather than standing alone at the tee. And because of the endorphins released during strenuous play, physiologists say the game tends to generate positive feelings among participants – a real plus when you're "net"-working.

    Bowling. As the world's number one participation sport, bowling is becoming a more affordable and less intimidating alternative to the company golf outing. According to Madison Avenue and Hollywood, bowling has never been so cool. Participation has grown 25 percent since the '90s, and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio have taken up the game. With its nonthreatening atmosphere, the sport is right up the alley of those looking to have a few laughs with clients and coworkers.

    NASCAR Racing. Though not a participation sport, stock car racing is the fastest-growing trend in corporate entertaining. NASCAR offers a highly engaging spectator experience with corporate packages that grant access to the garage as racers get ready, a bird's-eye view of the pit during the race, and even headsets where you can listen to conversations between drivers and their crews.

    Over the years, spectator demographics have changed from blue- to white-collar – with fans including business professors and other academics. NASCAR especially fascinates game-theory economists who say that of all sports, stock car racing most closely mirrors the world of business, because competitors are required to cooperate in order to win.

    Running. Be it a 5k or a marathon, this once solitary pursuit has become highly social with training organizations and associations where runners work out together and compare notes. "Runners have a great deal of respect for one another, because of the dedication, discipline and endurance it takes to run a marathon," says statistician Dan Hayes, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday by running five marathons in five months. Corporate challenges – where companies sponsor employee teams – are held in nearly every major city. Participants say these events are great equalizers that make approaching a person of higher or lower rank quite natural.

    Extreme Sports. For those who find golf a little stodgy, extreme sports like mountain climbing, BMX racing and snowboarding are fashionable alternatives. Extreme sports are especially popular among entrepreneurs, technology and advertising executives, as well as movers and shakers, like Presidential candidate John Kerry, who wish to test – and display – their mettle. Though these activities are high-risk, rewards include bonding, thrills and war stories with which to regal others at cocktail parties.

    Sports are a great way to break the ice and take relationships to another level. But remember, when sports and business mix – it's not just a game. Many business people use the sports arena to gain insight into a person's character and competitive/cooperative nature. It's important to play fair and exhibit good sportsmanship. You're not there to win, but to put your best foot forward, have a good time and get to know each other.
    -KidRok-
    "...because I won't accept that I can't."


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