LDN +44 (0)20 7698 2726NYC +1 (646) 712 9199

An Athlete's Mentality in the Workplace

Monday, 06 November 2017

Within recent years, the recognition that former athletes tend to go on to have more successful careers has been increasing with prospective employers. A number of studies clearly demonstrate that there is a correlation between those employees who took part in a sport in their youth and the expectation of employers as well as the status of employment attained. When comparing individuals who enjoyed sports and were a member of a sports team to those who were not, Kiffin unveiled in a two-part study that 1- employers of those who had participated in sport expected more of their employee, and 2- athletic individuals, when looking back on a career, enjoyed a higher-status of employment. When considering why this may be the case, an interesting debate to keep in mind is whether or not participating in sport transforms an unambitious individual into a determined person, or whether the attraction and willingness to participate in activities is a typical characteristic of someone who already possesses drive and motivation.

Having said this, it is essential to determine what it is about athletes that makes them so desirable to employers. After drawing upon personal experience, I have outlined a few traits that I believe set athletes apart from their peers. One of the most important soft skills that can be transferred from a sporting environment into the workplace is not the desire to win and out-perform the rest of the field, but the willingness to put in the preparation so that this success is possible. A vital lesson that is learnt by most sportspeople is that success is not an overnight achievement, it is hours spent doing the same thing until it works. Although cliché, the sentiment that hard work beats talent is tried and tested. Famously, Michael Jordan said that “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”. This sentiment highlights a key aspect of a sporting mentality, which is the commitment and focus required to repeat and amend a routine until it’s perfected. With all the failures and disappointments that are inevitable in any sporting career comes resilience, not only personal resilience but the ability to draw from within to pick others up and motivate peers.

There is a certain rationality of thinking that is required to succeed in competitive sport, which requires the participant to analyse and critique their failures rather than dwell on the heartache. This positive mindset is something that is drilled into all successful athletes. I know that, personally, the only times I have not achieved my goals is when I stopped believing that their attainment was possible. There is an argument that this ability to bounce back from disappointment is valued within the workplace because it encourages and facilitates constructive criticism. In the context of employment, constructive criticism can be essential to both personal and professional development as well as facilitating an environment of encouragement and honesty. Goal setting is another instinctive practice among individuals who have a sporting background. The value of setting goals is huge, not only because having goals ensures that you do not become stagnant within your career, but they are also crucial in order to visualise success. Surely, it is almost impossible to visualise achieving something if you don’t know what you want to achieve. In this sense- setting a goal ensures that you are always propelling yourself forward. As well as this, goals give perspective and they have the power to transform mountains into hills as well as encouraging time efficiency.

However, having considered the potential benefits of employing a sporty individual- it should not be the case that candidates are disregarded because of a lack of athleticism. Although many successful individuals have participated in sport- many very successful people haven’t (Bill Gates being a prime example). So, what can be taken from this? Perhaps the reliance on a sporting background to guarantee success is absurd, and that rather than looking for the evidence of athletic participation employers should focus on finding candidates who have these characteristics. After all, there are a whole number of circumstances that may influence whether or not an individual pursues a competitive sport. These factors being things such as family and the support offered to an individual. It would be devastating for these people- who possess the same potential but have not had the opportunity to act upon it to fall by the wayside. 


Share this blog article:

< Back to our blog