How an Athlete’s Experience Leads to Lifelong Success Discipline, hard work, perseverance… these are all buzzwords that our parents and coaches talk about from our earliest days in sports. While we learn to be successful athletes, we are rarely taught practical ways to apply these lessons to our lives outside of sport. How will extra morning workouts help me get a job promotion 10 years later? How will disciplined rehabilitation of an injury teach me to deal with my companies downsizing? How will proper nutrition help me take advantage of an opportunity that comes my way years after I leave the field of competition? It wasn’t until I was 26 and became a full time head coach at a Division I university that I began to fully understand the value of athletics. I was uniquely positioned to realize the discipline, hard work and perseverance that is required to be successful at both sports and life. I had to not only teach it to my athletes but I had to practice what I preached. I exercised discipline in executing the necessary tasks to build a successful team every day. I strove to outwork every coach in the department, usually leaving the building late at night guided by flashlight to find my way out of the darkened facility. I persevered through the unique challenges faced by a full-time coach. It was easy for me to apply the lessons because I was teaching them everyday to my athletes and therefore reinforcing them in my own mind. However, this is not necessarily true for athletes who retire and don’t get into coaching. Far too many athletes are not taught the skills to practically apply what they’ve learned in athletics to their professional and personal lives.
I eventually left coaching to take over a non-profit and eventually start my first business. The skills that I learned through athletics and that carried over into coaching have guided me every single day. I consciously draw on my experiences as an athlete to drive me through the challenges of being an entrepreneur. I reflect back on the words of a friend of mine, Mike Fisher, who was a 2X national soccer (football) player of the year from the University of Virginia. “If you’re willing to go through pain and suffering, ” Mike explained, “you can be successful at anything.” As an entrepreneur, I have certainly experienced pain and suffering, though not necessarily physical. I have worked hard, I’ve been tired, I’ve faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But I try. I stay disciplined. I work harder than my competition. I persevere. And in the end, I have found that the formula for success in athletics translates directly to the real world. If it weren’t for my training as an athlete, I would have succumbed long ago to the many failures that precede success. But, thankfully my experience as a coach helped me translate the lessons of athletics into business. Athletics is training for life.