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More Than A Sport: The Transformational Power of Skills Learned in Sports into the Workplace

My name is Sydney Seeley and I play collegiate level ice hockey at Lawrence University. This summer I have had the opportunity to intern at Her Next Play as a Program Intern, where I work closely with our Rookie Career Accelerator Program. This internship has allowed me to reflect on my own experiences with sports and how the skills I have developed through sports translate into my work environment.


Participating in sports provides you with a skillset that you naturally learn throughout the entirety of your athletic career. However, this skillset happens to include many aspects that are crucial to having a successful career. In fact, many of the top skills employers are looking for in candidates happen to be skills athletes all have and use during sport (Haigh). These are skills like leadership, teamwork, effective communication, accountability, resiliency, and more. According to the article How Skills From Sport Transfer to the Workplace by Mim Haigh, athletes excel in these types of skills because “they haven’t just learned these skills, they’ve refined them and practiced them with the kind of passion that drives teams to victories” (Haigh). In other words, not only do athletes know these skills, but we have practice implementing them, which allows us to excel in our careers.


During my sophomore year of college, I took a psychology course called Diverse Groups and Teams. In this class, I learned that people and their work colleagues are still considered a team, just a different kind of team. For me personally, this was a huge mindset change that opened my eyes to numerous similarities I never recognized before, some of which I expand on below.


For starters, I did not realize until I began my first internship in college how much sports taught me to be “coachable.” As an athlete, we work with coaches throughout the entirety of our athletic career, and using this skill to my advantage during my first internship made a huge difference in my work performance. My first internship was after sophomore year and it was with a recruiting company. As you can imagine, this was an industry where teamwork in the office was crucial for the success of the company. The way I made being coachable a transferable skill was to think of my boss as my coach; I asked them questions, I asked for their advice, and I asked for their feedback. I made it a point to make sure I was doing everything I could to be the best at my job and to get the most out of my internship. The most important part about doing this was that my bosses were willing to talk to me and answer all my questions. They wanted me to be as good as I could be because they understood that when everyone was performing their best, the team was performing better, too.


Another skill that goes hand-in-hand with coachability is effective communication, a trait engraved into any athlete’s mind. This is such an important skill to have in the workplace and having good communication with your boss and coworkers goes a long way. Good communication can be anything from updating your boss on what you are working on, to letting them know in advance if you have outside conflicts that interfere with your work schedule. The same goes with your coworkers, especially if you are collaborating on a project. I have noticed that these little details have led to building better relationships with my bosses and coworkers.


Aside from being coachable and having effective communication, I have also learned that having accountability is an important skill that is transferable from athletics to the workplace. Similar to the workplace, when you are playing a sport, you hold yourself, and your teammates, accountable to numerous things. It is important to have accountability in a work environment so that work can be done and finished on time. The best way I have found to use this skill is by writing down a To Do List and setting goals for each day. That way, I know what I have to get done and what my priorities are for the day. Nowadays, a lot of jobs are hybrid and/or remote, so this is an even more helpful skill! If I didn’t set daily goals or give myself a To Do List, I wouldn’t be as productive, which is obviously not ideal. Not only is it important to hold yourself accountable, but it is also important to hold your coworkers accountable. For example, if you are collaborating with a coworker on a project and they forget to touch base with you or it slips their mind to complete an aspect of their part, it is not rude to check-in with them and refresh their mind about what you had discussed with them prior.


During the last couple years of internships, I have come to realize that being an athlete has taught me more than just athletic skills, it has taught me skills that have helped me excel in the workplace as well. Noticing these similarities, and where specific traits can carry over, has been a huge game changer for me in my past, and current, internship positions.



Sources:

Haigh, M. (2019, June 2). How Skills From Sport Transfer to the Workplace. Athlete Assessments. https://www.athleteassessments.com/how-skills-from-sport-transfer-to-the-workplace/.


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