The impact of athletics—whether at the high school level, college, or beyond—can go well beyond physical fitness. Indeed, competitive sports can help develop and foster several skills that easily transfer to the private sector workplace. Below, former NFL player Arthur Lynch breaks down five of these skills and what you can do now to prepare yourself for your post-athletics career.
Regardless of where the future takes you, just about any career will require you to work and play well with others. Even if you’re a freelancer or solo practitioner, you’ll still be dealing with clients, customers, and service representatives. If you work in a more traditional office environment, you’ll have colleagues, supervisors, and upper management. The best employees can easily adapt to a variety of personalities and communicate well with all of them.
“Athletics, especially team sports, can also teach you how to identify and foster others’ unique skills,” Lynch says. That coworker who has a reputation for nitpicking others’ work? Maybe they’d prefer to work in a role that allows them to exercise some quality control. The coworker who seems to know everything and everyone? Perhaps they’d be a good fit for leading employee orientation.
By being able to pinpoint others’ skills and help them identify ways to use them to the team’s advantage, you’ll be a valuable asset to any workplace.
“Everyone has off days,” Lynch explains—”but as an athlete, you’ll often need to power through your mental and physical distractions to get the job done.” This process provides athletes with a level of self-confidence that can be hard to match. In the workplace, this confidence can help you try new tasks, speak up to propose changes and advance in your career more quickly.
The athletic lifestyle can be tough, especially for student-athletes who often must spend all day in class or doing homework, travel to a game, then get back in the wee hours of the morning and start the process all over again. It takes mental strength to rouse yourself at 5 a.m. for a grueling workout or to push through physical discomfort.
For many, the working world can seem like a breeze in comparison. An eight-hour workday, a comfortable place to sit—what could be better? But the workplace poses different challenges for many, and the mental fortitude you develop in your athletic career will serve you well as you make this transition.
Personal Development Drive
“One thing that all athletes have in common is a drive,” Arthur Lynch explains. “The drive to succeed, to make yourself just a little better each day—that’s something that can’t be taught.” In your career, it can sometimes be tough to identify these opportunities, and many find themselves in a rut where they wake up one day and realize they’ve been doing the same job, the same way, for decades.
Tapping into your development drive can help you avoid falling into this rut and ensure that you’ll continue learning and growing throughout your career. By keeping an eye out for continuing education seminars, reading self-help books, attending networking events, volunteering, or even shadowing an executive to get a glimpse into a day in their life, you’ll be ready to seize any additional opportunities that might present themselves.
After a game, win or lose, you may spend time reflecting on what happened—even watching videos of your performance to see where you excelled and where you could have done better. The ability to critically reflect on your performance and make a plan to avoid mistakes in the future is a skill that is hard to teach.
Many tend to react harshly to constructive criticism—the knee-jerk reaction is often to deflect blame or make excuses. But former athletes are uniquely positioned to be able to reflect on what went wrong, make a plan to correct it and execute that plan, all without throwing colleagues under the bus or avoiding responsibility for their own actions.
By continuing to hone these five skills throughout your athletic career, you’ll be able to bring your best to the table once you begin the next stage of life.
About Arthur Lynch:
Arthur Lynch has a multifaceted background; he has played in the NFL and served in the United States Army. Mr. Lynch graduated from the University of Georgia in 2013 with a BA in History. He minored in political science and held honors such as the Dean’s List and Academic All-SEC. He continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, attending the NFL Business Management & Entrepreneurial Program at Aresty Institute of Executive Education. Mr. Lynch studied finance and investment strategy and was one of only two first-year players to be accepted into the NFL BME program.