Bringing business thinking to sport

Jo Weston (BCom, 2015) is a star player for the Australian Diamonds netball team and the Melbourne Vixens. Here she reflects on how she applies business thinking on the court.

Jo Weston was finishing a Bachelor of Commerce in 2015 when she was selected for the Diamonds, Australia’s national netball team. Fast forward to 2018 and she was competing at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, where the team took out the silver medal.

Upon graduating, she took on a role as an analyst at Deloitte in their business advisory division – balancing four days of work a week alongside a hectic training schedule with the Melbourne Vixens and the Diamonds.

Weston is used to juggling, having done it throughout her studies. But last year, she was able to take on netball full-time, something female athletes have only been able to achieve recently.

What are the parallels between the business and sporting worlds?

In my experience, there is definitely a lot of crossover between the two.

Starting at Deloitte felt like being thrown into a new team, working toward a common goal.

Effective teamwork is essential on the court but also in business. Being an athlete has taught me a lot about being able to work alongside people who are different to you and bring out each other’s strengths.

Another obvious parallel is the focus on leadership.

I've worked really hard to develop my leadership skills on and off the court. I’ve had some great leaders over time, especially in the sporting arena. They’ve taught me that one of the most important things is to be a good listener.

I’m the Vice-President of the Australian Netball Players’ Association, which is essentially like a board position at a business or industry body. Our focus is promoting the interests of and protecting the welfare of our netballers – always with the future in mind.

Jo (second from left) with her Australian Diamonds teammates.

How does it feel to be a role model for younger athletes?

We do a lot of work with our younger pathway athletes coming through, which always is a bit surreal because it feels like a year ago, I was in their place myself.

When I was 10, I would go to the games and hope that a player would come up and sign my poster and I knew how much that meant to me. To be on the other side and on the netball court - you just want to take as much time as possible to connect to as many young girls and fans as possible. You never know what that could mean to them or what they've been going through or how it could inspire them to achieve their goals.

What does success mean to you?

With sports, success is typically defined as gold medals or premierships. But outside of that, I think success is setting a few targets and trying your best to achieve them. We also do a lot of work internally in our team on what our club culture and our team culture looks like.

We always talk about leaving our sport in a better space than when we stepped into it. We're only ever custodians of that and only for a limited time. So, we want to be able to make as much difference as we can, whether that's through the Player's Association or continuing to make the sport more and more professional. We want to make the training conditions the best they can be for future players.

Jo Weston Graduating
Jo Weston graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2015.

What are the challenges that still exist for women in sport?

Netball has always been a very stereotypical female sport. And that means we might not be able to get a hand from our male counterparts in terms of either funding or promotion.

But it also puts us in a place where we're never in direct comparison. And I think that's lucky because it means that men respect us a little bit more than they do with the female counterparts of cricket or AFL or soccer who always sort of are classed as second citizens to their older brothers.

What do you do to unwind?

I love reading. That’s been a really big outlet for me, especially when it encourages you just to be still. I’ve always felt like I constantly had to be achieving something or be busy. And it ends up burning you out pretty quickly, especially when we train so much. For me, it's about just trying to stay still for at least five minutes.

Listen to the Women are the Business podcast for more insights on women's working lives - linking cutting edge research and real life experience to explain the hurdles they face. Available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts now.