I have long recognized the strong correlation between having a history of playing sports and success in business.
And as a general rule, I have found this link to be remarkably evident in females.
Having competed in sports as a child and competing in the business world today, I know firsthand how valuable the experiences gained in sports can be.
On “Sporty” People
As a hiring manager, I often favor candidates who played team sports or engaged in other competitive activities in their youth. I find that the skills they honed on the “playing field” were often the very same that propelled them to the top of their game in business.
The most prominent skills are:
- Time Management
In my experience, “sporty” people are taught to stay focused on their goals. They have the motivation to continue following setbacks, and they know that success takes hard work.
Just the Facts
I recently found two studies that validate my experience and underscore the fundamental role that participation in sports plays in developing female leaders.
The most recent data is from a global survey commissioned in 2013 by the professional services firm Ernst and Young. This survey found that 96% of women in the “C-Suite” played sports at some level while growing up.
These survey findings are consistent with an earlier study conducted in 2002 by the mutual fund company Oppenheimer. The Oppenheimer study revealed that 82% of women in executive-level jobs had played organized sports after elementary school, including school teams, intramurals, or recreational leagues.
It’s Not Too Late
If you didn’t play team sports as a kid, it’s not too late.
The study also showed that businesswomen exercise and play sports significantly more than the general population of women. Two-thirds of women business executives exercise regularly, which other research would show is close to double the proportion for the general population of women.
The data is clear and that is this:
Being sporty not only helps women succeed in business, it sends them straight to the top.
On Playing Sports
Consider the benefits of playing teams sports:
Team sports teach athletes how to cooperate with others to achieve a common goal. Being able to work productively with a team is critical to achieving success in business. Being able to work on a team is a crucial part of my hiring process.
As an athlete, you are always looking to improve your performance. It may be to run further, faster, or lift more weight. Employers need workers that will work hard to accomplish their goals and continually “raise the bar.”
Athletes learn that if you get knocked down, literally and figuratively, you can pick yourself up and keep going. People that persevere in business, work hard to hold themselves and others responsible for achieving business objectives. They don’t let obstacles get in their way.
Child athletes learn at a young age how to balance school, homework, and athletics. Employers desire efficient workers that are self-motivated and stay on task.
Competitive & Assertive:
The competitive activity teaches the importance of winning and bouncing back after losing. Engaging in competitive activity as a child may help women learn that it is acceptable to compete aggressively.
The “Ginormosity” of it All
Clearly, the value of engaging in physical activity throughout you’re your lifetime is enormous.
Hiring managers consider the benefits of hiring candidates with strong competitive and/or sports backgrounds? Individuals with a sports background, consider the skills you have gained and use them to help you garner success in business.
So did you play sports growing up? If so, what lessons did you learn that have helped you in business and in life? How has this background benefited you and those you lead? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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