Who knew that the moments as a teenager playing sports would impact my actions as a business leader in my 20s, 30s and beyond? As I get further into my career, I often reflect on some early learnings from playing sports as a youth. Here’s some key leadership skills I learned from playing sports.
Hanging With the Boys … or Anyone for That Matter
In golf, you’ll play more rounds with men than women — guaranteed. And in the business world it’s the same. Getting a taste of playing golf with men early in life is a great way to prep for a career in business. In the male-dominated industries I’ve worked in my career — golf and consumer technology — there are advantages to being confident in working with men and earning their respect. In business you’ll work with a variety of people, and learning to work with different ages, genders and cultures is important for daily interactions and future success. Consider input from multiple perspectives, and communicate as they prefer. For example, do they like email or do they prefer to talk in person? As you work with people, especially difficult ones, you’ll learn their preferred communication style. Using it will pay off in the long run.
Hard Work and Practice Pay Off
I distinctly remember having a bad golf tournament because of my putting where I had no confidence and dreaded every putt. On the long bus ride home from the tournament, I contemplated how to get my confidence back. I orchestrated a plan that included a series of putting drills, making 10 putts each from three different distances. I can’t say if my putting stroke actually got better, but my confidence did. Now in business, I’m the first to organize before a big project. I take notes, do research and prep before I tackle a big project.
Mental Toughness Means Perseverance
One basketball season we won two games the entire season, but came within four points of making the conference championship. Each game we improved as a team, and I personally focused on more specific goals throughout the season, like only allowing one basket to be scored on me or boxing out on defense every time or catching every pass ready to shoot. This applies to business life more than you imagine: every project, every pitch or every sales call may not be an obvious win, but it’s a step toward something better. Sometimes in business you can get bogged down with the negative, from lawsuits to employees quitting to budgets, but as a leader, you need to set aside to time to look at the future and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s OK to Quit
Every sports movie or success story tells you to keep trying and fighting no matter what. One of the hardest things I ever did was quit my college golf team at the end of my junior year. I’d worked three years, getting better and finally qualified to travel with the team for a tournament, only for my coach to take another player instead of me even after I met the clearly outlined requirements. That was the moment I realized it was a lost cause and my efforts would lead nowhere. While rare, there are definitely those times in life when you should give up or let something go, whether it’s a project, career path, or specific goal. In fact, after stepping away from golf I took that extra time to get a marketing internship at a coffee roaster, ultimately helping transition to my first marketing job out of college.
I’m a huge supporter of playing sports growing up. They taught me so many lessons that I use now in business and life.
Terra Teat is the vice president of marketing at JLab Audio, and leads global marketing and brand awareness for the fastest growing headphones brand in the U.S. She played basketball, volleyball and golf growing up in Wyoming, and transferred those skills to jobs at Cobra Golf, Puma Golf, and currently JLab Audio, which is the official audio partner of Major League Soccer.