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FAST TRACK: Corporate Strategies

The Inside Track On Becoming A Consummate Professional 19: Being Given The Boot... Sport In The Workplace
THE ROLE of sport in the workplace is a highly complex one.

Firstly, it helps strung-out executives relax. After a hard day of ruthlessly competitive, cut-and-thrust, physically draining activity in the marketplace - what could be more relaxing than having a small (but extremely hard) spherical projectile propelled towards your groin at approximately 250mph?

Secondly: as any top business professional knows, the biggest corporate deals are struck not in the boardroom, but in the changing room. The advantage being that most sports-centre changing rooms don't have such a lingering smell of male armpit odour, and are less rife with accusations of unsportsmanlike behaviour.

To put it bluntly: if you want to make it to the top, what you really need is balls. Most large companies now have their own soccer, cricket or rugby squads (eg Lloyds United, the First Leisure XI, the Alliance- &-Leicester City) - who engage in fierce competition with other corporate sides.

Indeed, some firms now place such emphasis on this that they select employees not by academic achievement, but by sporting prowess. If asked during an interview "what are your goals", the correct response nowadays is probably "they're those big netty things at either end of your pitch - boss".

Doctors, meanwhile, have been baffled by the way incidences of gastroenteritis, head-colds and "feeling a bit queasy I think I'd better take a day off" rise dramatically in direct correllation to World Cup matches (a medical phenomenon now known as "Englandular Fever").

The type of sport you play will probably depend to a large extent on your particular job. Viz:

n Advertising executive - football. This is, of course, a popular pastime involving big pitches, white lines, striving for promotion, massive sponsorship deals and an awful lot of laddish behaviour. Football, thankfully, is a slightly more civilised pursuit.

n Temp - aerobics. Aerobic training hones that most crucial temping skill: the ability to follow complex instructions shouted out by a maniac slave- driver. Buttock clenches, meanwhile, build up the muscles used to resist uncomfortable office seating - and lying flat on her back cycling her legs in the air is useful practice for the Christmas party.

n Accountant - tennis. If your accountant is having difficulty with some complicated returns, this probably means that he's out on the astroturf practising his ground strokes. Contrary to popular misapprehension, the only rackets most financial traders are involved with are those of the catgut-strung variety.

n Middle-manager - rowing. Generally rowing with other people about "who is not pulling their weight around this place".

n Line manager - rifle shooting. Talking at length about "aims" and "target areas" comes naturally to any senior management staff, as does the ability to fire repeatedly with ruthless efficiency.

n Travelling salesman - rally driving.

n Union rep - baseball (three strikes and you're out).

n Canteen worker - the egg and spoon race.

n Head of personnel - the sack race.

n Office bore - snooker.

n Security guard - American football. Requires the ability to be a large, illiterate thug who refuses to let anyone get past him. (Millwall Supporter is an acceptable substitute).

n Post-boy - the 80m sprint.

n Telemarketeer - angling. Sitting absolutely motionless for hours on end, being stuck on the end of a line and trying to lure that elusive big catch is the secret of both angling and telemarketing. The phrase "sling your hook" is also common to both fields. Angling, however, is less likely to result in any sentient life form being bashed over the head with an iron bar.

n IT supervisor - Nintendo soccer, preferably over a multi-player link with all the other IT staff, until the system crashes due to network overload.

n Solitary smoker in non smoking office - skiing. The ski slope holds no terror for this employee, who - since being banished to the office roof - is well used to standing outside in the freezing cold at very high altitudes. The other sport popular amongst smokers is cricket, since having a crafty fag without the manager spotting you requires considerable skill at catching and retaining the Ashes.

n Fat cat chairman - golf. Golf is ideally suited to the chairman, since it involves nothing more taxing than a gentle stroll in the country, with someone else carrying your bags and the prospect of a long drink in an exclusive country club at the end of it all (those rolling expanses of lush verdant grass will also remind him of his green baize desk back at the office - though the golf course does not, of course, cover quite so many acres).

Sadly - golf also requires the wearing of exceedingly silly trousers and Pringle sweaters, which explains why so few women make it to the very top jobs. Unlike, say, Richard Branson, they have far too much dress sense to swap their Manolos for a pair of ridiculous golf shoes.

n Extremely fat-cat chairman - Sumo wrestling.

If your working schedule is too frantic to allow for regular sporting pursuits, don't despair! Most popular team games have their office equivalent.

Darts, for instance, can be easily replicated with a photo of the MD and a set of sharp kitchen-knives. Basketball, using screwed-up important memos and a waste-paper basket, has been played for years by less-enthusiastic personnel.

If, despite this, you are still a physical weakling, completely devoid of co-ordination, lacking any team spirit and unable to kick a ball to save your life... rest assured.

This needn't be a handicap - you too can earn a six-figure salary. It's simple. Just become an English Premiership footballer.