It’s common to hear college coaches say, “what you learn on the court or the field, you will take with you the rest of your life.” To be honest, I always assumed that adage was just something coaches said to justify running their players to death for hours on end. As it turns out though, they may be right.
There are more than 480,000 current NCAA athletes, and as you can imagine, they won’t all be going pro. What each of these athletes has in common, however, are measurable and invaluable characteristics that directly apply to life after the final clock strikes zero on their college athletic careers. While there are many, here are five characteristics that athletes are able to apply in the workforce:
No workday is predictable. Each day, there’s a new surprise waiting, and some days the “surprises” can be challenging. Every athlete will tell you that no game plan goes exactly as intended. There is always some version of a “curveball” in any sport. Sports are all about moves and counter moves. Adjustments and then further adjustments. A lot of these are done on the fly and without warning, often without being able to get assistance from a coach and requiring split-second decisions. While the workplace may not encounter as many instantaneous decisions as a game, there are often moments that require you to adapt on the fly. The ability to remain calm when these surprises come along is also a valuable quality that can help those on your team to remain cool under pressure while, at the same time, inspiring confidence.
Sports teams can be a lot like melting pots. Now more than ever, it’s commonplace to have athletes from across the US and all over the world converge into one place. This disparity of backgrounds and temperaments can become the human version of a canvas covered in splattered paint; different colors, shapes and sizes, but when they come together, it truly is art. When you have individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, upbringing, political and religious beliefs, you learn very quickly that no two people communicate the same way. Finding a middle ground, while not always easy, is also imperative.
3. Time Management
If you play any sport, particularly college sports, you’d better know how to manage your time. Typically people assume a college athlete’s life consists of practice and class and the rest of the time is dedicated to their social life. That’s actually not the case. In fact, they do many other things, such as community service, film sessions, study group, fan events and more. It’s remarkable that they can fit it all in. However, it is an opportunity to learn the art of time management, which, in an office setting, can prove to be more crucial than one might think. Being able to delegate your time and understanding to which fire to put out first, is a skill these athletes possess in spades.
No one likes a coworker who is constantly defending their actions, just like no one likes a teammate that makes excuses. Actions always determine outcome. No matter how well-spoken you are, there’s no charming your way out of anything. Owning up to a mistake doesn’t make you a bad team member or a bad employee, it makes you a good one. People make mistakes all the time, but you waste time by placing blame on others or making excuses. Hold yourself accountable for your work, attitude and effort and you will leave a powerful impression.
5. Team Work
Teamwork may sound cliché but it’s one of an athlete’s most worthwhile gifts. It is common for sports teammates to become life-long friends. While that’s most assuredly indisputable, it doesn’t mean they didn’t have their fair share of ups and downs. They likely debated on many occasions, but at the end of the day, they always had each other’s back. They were teammates. Your coworkers are your workplace “teammates” and the attitude you have as an individual can spread like wildfire to the entire group. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you act as though you are a part of a unit rather than an individual.
These five characteristics are qualities that an athlete can take pride in, having learned from their teammates and coaches. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, these qualities become engrained in almost every dedicated athlete you come across.
I once heard a college coach say,
You can either be an ‘energy vampire’ and suck the life out of your team, or you can be a ‘power source,’ providing positivity and energy to others.
Which will you be?