As a lifelong athlete and a current collegiate volleyball player, I have been on more teams than I can count. I’ve been on volleyball teams, soccer teams, softball teams, teams that win state championships, and teams that lose repeatedly. What I never realized during any of these experiences, but have now learned working at an agency with a highly collaborative culture, is that every sports team I’ve been on has given me tools that have prepared me to operate in a team-centered environment. There are some lessons that athletes learn thorough their various team experiences that are hard to teach, and allow them to thrive when working with others.
They Know Their Team is a Machine and Every Part is Important
The one thing all teams have in common, whether they are on the court or in the office, is that they are made up of individuals. Each person on a team plays a specific, crucial role. Every member of a team has a job that they must complete in order for the team to succeed, and they cannot do these jobs if others do not do theirs.
On the volleyball court, my team relies on me as an outside hitter to score points, but I cannot do so without a good set from the setter, who cannot perform her job without a good pass or dig from the defenders. In volleyball and in many other team sports, this interdependence teaches players the importance of doing their job to the best of their ability, whatever that job may be. In a collaborative work setting, these athletes are motivated to work hard to be a dependable piece of the machine.
They Understand the Importance of Communication
Anyone who has played sports long enough has likely encountered a team that, despite being full of talented players and potential, does not succeed. As frustrating as this experience can be, it teaches a valuable lesson: while a team is made up of individuals, it will not succeed if they perform as such. The glue that turns a group of talented individuals into a successful team is communication.
In sports and businesses alike, communication ensures that everyone is on the same page, and that every task is accomplished. In some teams, chemistry comes naturally, but it’s important to be prepared for the times when it does not. Most team sport athletes have been forced to work in teams that don’t naturally mesh, so they know how crucial communication is to success, and have plenty of practice making the best of these situations.
They’ve Learned the Benefits of a Team-Centered Attitude
One of the hardest lessons young athletes have to learn is that they can’t always be in the spotlight, and they won’t always be a starter. As a member of a team, you will sometimes get recognition, but other times it will be a teammate who shines. An important part of evolving as an athlete and employee is learning how to celebrate the successes of your teammates, even if it means they are playing your position while you sit on the bench.
Many athletes have, throughout their lives, learned that rather than be disgruntled by these situations, it’s important to be motivated and inspired, as competition makes them better individually and improves the team as a whole. Athletes who have had to work hard to earn a spot on a team know how to respect the hard work and accomplishments of those around them, and know how to respond positively to team situations that challenge them. True team players know that when the team succeeds, everyone succeeds. An attitude focused on self-betterment and team success is rare, and is something that many athletes are able to bring to their teams beyond the field.