By: Lou McAlister, Senior Consultant
Do you still harbor the myth of the dumb jock? No doubt, you have plenty of examples where someone is so focused on being great in a sport that they display all the characteristics of the typical dumb jock. However, there are many more examples of athletes that perform exceptionally well outside of their sport and achieve high levels of success.
Here are the Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Hire Athletes:
10. Athletes are goal-oriented. Athletes set goals – often goals that are apparently unattainable. Sometimes we call them “stretch goals.” Because of those goals, athletes also practice techniques that help them see themselves succeeding. Athletes know exactly what a win looks like. They know how success is measured in objective terms. They set up plans that move them step-by-step toward those goals, and grade their performance along the way.
9. Athletes are tenacious. Athletes are not quitters. They play the game all the way to the end. There are two reasons for this tenacity. First, is that victory may still be within reach, even at the very last instant. The second is that character is revealed in competition and in defeat, and an athlete wants to show character. Tenacity keeps athletes in a competitive position regardless of the situation they are in.
8. Athletes are driven. Athletes have a well-developed sense of what perfection in their sport looks like, and that perfection is something they want to achieve. An athlete’s work ethic is strong. They practice and drill on basic skills, enduring pain, boredom, and frustration. Athletes attempt to exceed their innate abilities. The late cycling instructor Jim Karanas used to say, “Training isn’t about getting fit. Training is about learning to overcome your self-imposed limitations.”
7. Athletes are continuous learners. Although athletes often repeat the same activities, they also find themselves learning continuously. Whether they are learning a new downhill course, settling into a new job assignment on the field, or studying what competitor’s are doing in preparation for a game – athletes find themselves absorbing new mental material all the time. This constant demand to learn new things may make athletes very opportunistic learners or “quick studies.”
6. Athletes are exceptional problem solvers. They are often equipped to not only understand their individual contribution, but to see the big picture. They may have specialized skills, but they understand how they fit into the overall scheme of the team goals. This make them excellent entrepreneurs and problem solvers. Even solo athletes who are not on teams have this attribute because they are the team. They’re playing all of the positions in their sport themselves.
5. Athletes understand the value of balance. Athletes understand that there’s a fine line between training and obsession. They understand what it means to burn out. Athletes train hard, play hard, stay focused, and stay committed; they also know when to relax, take a break and chill. Athletes know how to back off on hard training, before going into a major competition. They know how to tune themselves to peak at the proper time. But they also know how to have fun – and when to have it.
4. Athletes work well with partners and in teams. Athletes know about having respect for themselves and others. They know where and when to give credit to other members of the team. Athletes know that no matter how well they have done, there were others around that helped them achieve their goals. Athletes know how to collaborate, compromise, adjust, and fit into a complex situation.
3. Athletes are loyal. Athletes identify with their team, school, community, country, or fan base. They devote their energies not only to themselves and their sport, but also to those who cheer them. Athletes identify with the “company flag” and wave it as ardently as anyone. They don’t “date around” or act as consultants. They’re not a different person every week. Even many professional athletes continue to identify with a team that cut them, traded them or retired them. Joe Montana is a San Francisco hero even though he finished his career in Kansas City, for example.
2. Athletes are resilient. No matter how hard they train, how hard they work, or how completely they plan – athletes experience loss, injury, pain, disappointment, and failure. Athletes get knocked down literally and figuratively as a matter of course. In spite of it all, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. They shuck the past and look to the future. The next play. The next game. The next match. The next run. Resilience has a counterweight that helps the athlete know that victory is fleeting and no sooner occurs than it is itself relegated to the past. Athletes have a sharp appreciation for the adage that, win or lose, “Tomorrow is another day.”
1. Athletes hate to lose. The therapeutic value of losing is vastly over-rated. Athletes may learn something about themselves or some aspect of their competition in losing, but, beyond that – the value in losing is very low. Bill Campbell coached the Columbia University football team from 1974-1979 after having been on the only Columbia team to win an Ivy League title. His winning percentage was .231. He left coaching and went into technology, becoming a senior executive at Intuit and at Apple. He is on the Board of each company. Campbell says, “There’s not one good thing about losing. There are no lessons to be learned.” It’s hard to argue with him. Losing is painful and, even if the pain goes away, the scars are still there. Athletes like to compete, true, but they like to win even more. Athletes will work harder and longer, and with more determination and focus because they have two motivators. One motivator is a positive one – It’s the desire to win, to be the best. The other motivator is the dark one – It’s the fear of losing. It’s the fear of not being good enough. One motivator is good, but two are better.
Do yourself and your company the biggest favor possible: hire athletes. They don’t have to be world-class, Olympic champions, or professionals in thier sport. The lessons learned by being an athlete come at every level of competition across all sports activities and are of life-long value.
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