Professional athletes almost universally begin their sports careers at an early age. Playing sports from their youth, they grow up in a culture that allows them to develop values that transform undisciplined children into focused athletes and individual players into teammates. The skills and lessons learned in sports are only strengthened for those who eventually play the game at a professional level.
Much as they begin their careers young, many athletes retire young, and many seek out second careers in their next phase of life. One of the most fitting jobs for the former athlete is that of a business executive; the same abilities that helped them become a superior athlete can also make them strong business leaders. Listed below are seven reasons why former athletes are well suited to leadership in business.
They value preparation.
To excel on the field or the court, pro athletes know that they must dedicate ample time to preparing themselves for competition through plenty of practice and hard work. Former athletes often apply this same concept in the workplace—they don’t underestimate the importance of preparation in achieving their goals. They are not content to sit idly by and leave things to chance, instead playing an active role in the research and planning phases in order to help a work team achieve its goals.
They’re willing to work harder than the competition.
In a similar vein, professional athletes know that they will have to outwork their competitors in order to secure a win. They understand that success comes to those who are willing to put forth the greatest effort, which can make all the difference in business. In addition, pro athletes are often driven by a hunger for success throughout their sports careers, and that internal push can also drive them to major professional achievements in their post-sports pursuits.
They take accountability.
Former athletes understand that no matter how prepared they are, they will inevitably encounter setbacks. In these instances, athletes hold themselves accountable and accept responsibility in the event that they make a mistake. This characteristic translates well in the business world, as former athletes are not likely to pass blame on to subordinates or colleagues. This habit not only contributes to a better work environment for everyone, but also leads former athletes to reflect on their mistakes and learn how to avoid them in the future.
They don’t allow themselves to linger on mistakes.
Though they have no trouble accepting responsibility for their errors, former athletes don’t let themselves dwell on these mistakes for long. Long-lingering thoughts of past errors can get into an athlete’s head and take them out of the game, so coaches often work on helping players retrain their focus and look toward the future after a bad play or loss. The ability to let go of mistakes helps former athletes recover quickly from professional failures and keeps them from getting wrapped up in self-doubt when setbacks occur. This is a key quality of successful entrepreneurs and business executives, who cannot be held back by the past in a fast-paced business environment.
They work well in high-stress situations.
Professional athletes are masters of working well under pressure. When faced with high-stress situations, they remain calm and act with thoughtful consideration, rather than reacting on impulse. Having composure when the pressure to perform is high makes former athletes excellent leaders who set the tone for their colleagues and staff. Furthermore, former athletes are accustomed to handling stress, and as a result, are typically less afraid of taking risks in business. They’re also better equipped to problem-solve in the moment, adjusting adeptly to changing circumstances in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
They understand the importance of teamwork.
To be a great athlete, one has to recognize the importance of teamwork. People who play professional team sports know that without collaboration, it is impossible to win. Former athletes bring this same mentality into the workplace, where they understand that success is achieved not only through hard work on an individual level, but also by how effectively they work with others in pursuit of a goal. Former athletes as leaders are often skilled at creating a positive team environment, bringing a supportive structure to the workplace that can yield great achievements.
They believe in their own abilities.
One of the most basic, yet most important, qualities that benefit former athletes in a business career is confidence. Successful professional athletes tend to possess an unshakeable belief in themselves and their ability to achieve their athletic goals—they have to, or they would not have found any success in the sports world. This confidence is accompanied by an enduring positive attitude that often makes them tenacious business leaders, undeterred by obstacles no matter how many they face. On the court or on the field, athletes make it happen for themselves. This positivity and can-do attitude helps them find success by pushing on in difficult situations, when less confident people may simply give up.