What You Might Learn From Professional Athletes

Do you have a favourite sports team or individual athlete that you admire? I know I do. I’ve been following the same two professional sports teams and their players since the 1960’s, and over that time there’s been a great deal of changes in how athletes both prepare themselves for matches and the preparation they go through on off days and the off-season.

To this day though, it is interesting to compare how a young athlete arrives in an organization and listen to what he or she says. Most of the time, I have found that the comments they make are basically the same; usually touting their appreciation for making the club, wanting to do whatever it takes to succeed, and saying how much the fans mean to them. Now personalize that. When you yourself get a job, don’t you express your appreciation for being selected to join the company? Don’t you say you’re prepared to work hard to be a valuable member? And of course you might even thank your own personal fans; your family, friends, references for their support and tell them how much you appreciate their support during that period of unemployment.

However, watch a professional athlete, and he or she will not relax when they make it to an elite level, but rather they will now start to actually work harder. They are very aware that the competition at this higher level is tougher, bigger, more skilled, and if they are going to succeed, they have to become more dedicated to training, eating better, exercising more, etc. Way back in the 70’s and 80’s, not all professional athletes really worked all that hard during the off-seasons. In fact, most did little at all except kick back with their families and relax. The thinking was back then that you only needed to get back into a routine as your sport came back into its seasonal schedule. And because just about all the rest of the players were doing the same, the field was equal.

Think about your own job and those around you. Ask yourself how important it is for you to either get ahead or stay in the position you are now. Unlike those professional athletes who by a certain age are done with their sport and retire, you are conceivably working well into your 60’s until you retire, so you’ve got a significant number of years to invest in the world of employment. It’s not a bad idea to look at those around you who are being accelerated in their chosen career paths. What if anything, could you learn from them in terms of how to get promoted or recognized? Remember that while today you might be content in your current role, there may well come a time when you want advancement within the organization, and then you could very well wish you had done more over the last several years.

Do the little things first of all that won’t cost you any money or tremendous effort; like be punctual, network and develop your people skills. Read up on training manuals, stay up on current trends in your industry, get a hold of the job description of the job ahead of you on the company ladder and see what is different from what you do now. What new skills and responsibilities would you have to have if you decided to compete in the future for this job? You might even want to sit down with someone in HR, or perhaps your own Supervisor and talk about getting help in mapping out where you’d need to improve if you decided to apply for a position.

There’s a difference between professional athletes and elite athletes. Professional athletes are good enough to perform at the highest level in their sport, but elite athletes push themselves to higher standards, work harder, train harder, study their game more, study the competition more, and all while under a microscope. While it appears some are cocky, arrogant and self-serving, they have probably made a decision at some point in a very calculated way to advance their career and act a certain way to project that image. So you get the “bad boy”, the “spoiled brat”, or the “loose cannon”. These persona’s are not going to do you well in your job however.

Look back on your own career and see what you did or didn’t do when you advanced or were passed over. If you can discern what steps are required to position yourself for advancement, then you are always in a position to act with confidence in choosing to engage in activities that will be consistent with your desire to move ahead. Positioning yourself now for future advancement is always good advice rather than getting burnt out, disappointed you always get passed over, and regretting the years you didn’t do anything extra to take advantage of the time you had.

Now wouldn’t it be nice to get those professional salaries too?

3 thoughts on “What You Might Learn From Professional Athletes

  1. Great advice. Great skills today can become commodity skills tomorrow in the constantly changing employment marketplace. Remember Lotus 1-2-3 was the number spreadsheet application in the early to mid-1980s. Lotus allowed Micrsosoft to grab the lead and render Lotus 1-2-3 to second class by not introducing significant upgrades to its product.


  2. Great advice and love the analogy of professional vs. elite athlete. There are good employees and there are great employees, there are those that go above and beyond and others that do the minimum. Sometimes one needs to leave the current company to get ahead career wise as there is not room for advancement in the current organization and one should not be afraid to do this. It does require one leaving their ‘comfort zone’ in a sense. Upgrading of skills is important along with volunteering which can assist with networking and trying something new.
    Also, the professional salary would be amazing!


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