Sports are not for everybody. However, there’s little debate about the fact that they can teach us some very valuable lessons. This is one reason so many parents ultimately want their children to compete in and/or watch sports – not just for the activity of it, but to learn certain things from it. The thing we don’t talk about as much is that the lessons don’t have to stop at any point in childhood. Sports have a lot to teach adults as well, particularly when it comes to certain leadership and business practices.
Broadly, sports actually have quite a few parallels to entrepreneurship. They can teach us about managing teams, building accountability, coping with failure, and striving for success. And within these broad notions, there are some pretty specific and important lessons the modern entrepreneur can learn from paying attention to sports.
- The Value Of Communication
Communication is of vital importance in every sort of business in the world. Whether we’re talking about relations within a team, from employer to employee, from worker to client, or whatever else, nothing will ever run smoothly if communication isn’t clear, thorough, and appropriately timed. This is something that can be learned at various stages of life and from various sources, but there might not be anything that exemplifies it better than sports. The next time you watch a college or professional game of some kind, try to take specific note of how the coaches and players talk to each other. Barring a significant talent disparity, you’ll almost always see the team that’s noticeably communicating more executing better.
- That Passion Drives Success
It’s never been a secret that passion can drive a good performance in sports. We don’t talk quite as much about the impact it can have on leadership. This is something that’s touched on in “The Captain Class,” which is one of the more interesting books on sports and business philosophies to come out in recent years. Correctly called “wonderfully strange and absorbing” in one review, the book dives into what qualities have been possessed by some of the best team leaders in sports history. And while “passion” as a word is not identified, there is a dogged, determined, relentless quality to the leaders who are profiled within the book’s pages. It’s strong evidence, backed at times by psychological studies, that a certain fire or passion can make a leader more effective, even if it’s not always displayed in the ways one might expect.
- How To Spot A Winner
There’s a reason we sometimes call the analysis of who’s ahead between two competitors a “horse race,” and it stems from the sport itself. Consider the Grand National, which is one of the world’s most famous professional races. It is specifically described at a betting resource as being popular amongst many people who do not normally watch horse racing. There’s just something about the simplicity of a big horse race that draws in even non-fans on occasion. It’s just down to a few horses, and which one will outstrip the others. Sports like these, in which the competition is straightforward, can over time give you a sense of learning which competitors will in fact prevail. That’s not to say it’s a science, nor that you’ll ever be perfect at assessing “winners.” However, most horse racing and sports fans will argue that you can gain a sort of innate sense of who’s ready to succeed and who isn’t.
- The Fleeting Nature Of Failure
One of the most remarkable things you can see in the world of sports is a tennis match that’s going back and forth, not just across the net but in terms of who’s on top. A player can have a disastrous string of points, hitting the ball into the net, misfiring it into the crowd, and ultimately shouting or breaking a racquet in frustration. The same player, quite often, will rebound just minutes later, play a few spectacular points, and get back on top in the match. Of course the opposite scenario can happen occasionally as well; any player struggling is capable of simply fading away in a match. However, the lesson is that a single failure doesn’t have to become a comprehensive one. This is evidenced in all sports, but particularly clear in these tennis scenarios. You can learn by watching that if you really teach yourself to let go of things that have gone poorly, you can turn things around in a hurry.
- The Power Of Excellence
This sounds silly at first, because of course every entrepreneur is striving for excellence at some point, on some level. The point is more nuanced though, and comes from one of the most successful coaches in sports history. Says Mike Krzyzewski, who coaches Duke’s college basketball team and previously led the U.S. national team, “my hunger is not for success, it is for excellence.” It’s a reminder that not just in business but in all kinds of pursuits, if your goal is simply to succeed, or make money, you’re less likely to get there. Once you start thinking of things this way, you’ll notice it everywhere in sports. Athletes and teams that perfect their craft – Roger Federer in tennis, the New England Patriots in football, the Golden State Warriors in basketball – never seem particularly worried about outcomes. There’s a sort of peace to the idea that achieving excellence is more within one’s control, and ultimately results in success anyway.
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