What We Can Learn From Sports

Originally written and posted by Lauren Myrick, on Monday, January 6, 2014.


NFL. NHL. Erie Otters. NBA. Erie Bayhawks. NCAA Football. NCAA Basketball.  Soccer.  Olympic Trials.  Australian Open. 2014 Sochi Olympics. And so much more!

Chances are, you’ve had (or will have) the opportunity to watch one or more of the following athletic endeavors throughout the holidays or in the New Year.  Although temperatures drop outside, competition heats up in the winter.  The next time an athletic event plays on a nearby TV, rather than mindlessly watching or changing the channel, I challenge you to get curious!  Whether an individual or team sport, there is something to learn!

 Study the event for 5 to 10 minutes.  A few things to look for:
  •       How do the players interact with each other?
  •             How do the players interact with the coach?
  •            Are the fans (on-screen or in the room) positive or negative in their comments?
  •            What are the habits of the best players?
  •            What dynamic do the best teams have?
  •            What character traits or habits do athletes have on the best teams?  Is there a mix?
  •            What do the top athletes do better?
  •            Who is on the sidelines/finish line to offer support?
  •            What teams do you like or follow?  What draws you to them?

4 Take-aways
1.       Teamwork – whether an individual or team sport, teamwork and support systems are the key to achieving greatness.  Successful teams support each other in positive ways.  Both individual competitors and teams have a network of support to help them succeed.  No one rises to the top on their own.  This is true for sports, movies & music (think of acceptance speeches), and especially business.  Who helps you get the job done?  Are you missing a key supporter?  Is the support you HAVE the support you NEED?

2.       Dedication – Practice, practice, practice.  The best athletes at the highest levels of competition generally put in more time than their counterparts.  Experts say 10,000 hours is required to achieve mastery.  High-achieving athletes often have that “thing” they are known for.  They also know that a bad day or week is OK.  And when they don’t feel like going for gold?  They rely on their support system to keep them going.  What one thing do you want to be known for?  What keeps you inspired?  When things aren’t going your way, how do you turn it around?

3.       Learning – Top athletes never stop learning.  They learn from success and failure; from new techniques to advice from former champions; you’ll find them watching film (of themselves and competitors), reviewing each move, on how they can be smarter, quicker, and more powerful.  Although we don’t have instant-replay in the business world, we can certainly look at our day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and the ever popular year-to-year practices to be better.  Learning in the business world not only includes performance review, but reading, watching peers and leaders, attending training, networking, and stretching ourselves.

4.       Knowing their limits – Not only do top-performing athletes train harder, they train smarter.  They push their limits, but are careful not to shatter them.  To have a long, successful career, they know short term sacrifices are sometimes required to attain the long term win.  Athletes with constant injuries can be great, but seldom achieve superstar status.  Plus, they miss out on doing what they love.  Do you have stretch goals?  When is the last time you achieved a stretch goal?  Are you exhausted?  Most days, do you feel excited and energized?  These are some key questions you can use to gauge whether to dial it up or tone it down.


If you don’t have the answers to all these questions, now is a great time to define them!  What would help you be your best self and perform your best?  What’s missing?

Watching sports can also help you to be more active!  What other key points have you noticed?  What is your experience competing?  Has athletic competition helped your professional growth?  What events will you watch this winter?  Share below!


Additional resources:
Business Tips from Coach K’s (legendary Duke basketball coach) playbook:  http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/blog/2013/12/3-things-business-leaders-should-take.html?ana=twt&page=all

An article from London Business School on the relationship between sports & business:
http://www.ceoforum.com.au/article-detail.cfm?cid=8288&t=/Julian-Birkinshaw-London-Business-School/Can-business-learn-from-sport