When I was 12 years old I attended a prestigious basketball camp with tons of great young players from around the country. One of the guest speakers that week was future Hall of Fame basketball coach, Hubie Brown. We all sat around the gym in a huge circle and for an hour, Coach Brown talked to us about life and athletics…basketball in particular, and how the vast majority of us sitting there were not going to be professional athletes. He spoke enthusiastically about how almost all of us were going to be “going pro” in something other than our beloved sport. He talked about how we could use the skills and experiences from athletics and turn them into meaningful life lessons that would translate into every aspect of our lives. One thing he said that day still resonates with me today. He said “Don’t let basketball use you, you use basketball.” Now as a 12 year old, I didn’t quite get the entirety of his message, but as I sit here today, his message rings clear.
As a recruiter, we get the opportunity to speak with Hiring Managers on a daily basis, and I will tell you, it is true that the large majority of Hiring Managers love to speak with candidates who have had former athletic success. But why? What makes athletics so special? If you are a former athlete and you are interested in how you can leverage your experience and translate it into today’s job market to jumpstart your career, this is for you. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and break down what Hubie Brown was telling all those kids 25 years ago on that hot, summer day…
After being recruited, essentially interviewed, and being selected for the team you arrive on campus, or in the office for your first day. Nerves are high, but you handle them. You meet your teammates and you start training. This is just the beginning of a long career and it’s imperative you make a good impression. You start putting in the work from day 1. This is the time you start to show your coach and teammates who you are and what you are all about. Competitive. Hard worker. Team player. You show up on time, you listen & learn, you try hard, and take in everything around you. A new career, or a new team- these learned skills and experiences are virtually the same.
A few months in, and practice starts. Real games won’t start for another 4 weeks. This is when you do all the little things. You get to the gym or office early to get in extra reps. You make personal goals, study the playbook, and put in extra effort anywhere you can. You dive on loose balls, and you win the sprints. When practice is over, or the office is closed for the day- you stay late until you make 20 straight free throws. As an athlete on the playing field, or early in your career looking to hone your craft- these are the things you need to be doing for yourself and for your team. It will not go unnoticed. These are some of the traits that make athletes desirable, so don’t forget them.
The season officially starts. Now it is GAME TIME. Bosses and coaches are usually pretty smart. They schedule you with winnable games, or projects, early on. They know you will make mistakes but they want to see how you and your team will handle them together. Athletes find a way to win these games. It’s important you find a way to win these games, your coach/boss expects you to. They were scheduled here for a reason. It’s also important to help your teammates as you are now forming your role and shaping your future with this team. Lead by example- when you are on the court, or handling a project- this is your time to earn more playing time. Find a way to make yourself imperative to the success of your team. Rely on the little things you trained on and execute because you have prepared yourself for success- thats what athletes do.
Next up is the conference schedule, and not to mention- mid terms and papers are piling up. You have to learn to balance your time. This is where promotions/playing time is earned. It’s TIME TO GRIND. The games are bigger and the projects are more important. Some players will earn less playing time, and some will earn more. These are the most important projects to date and your coach/boss is looking for his top performers who give CONSISTENT maximum effort. Be that person. BE CONFIDENT. There are going to be obstacles along the way, rowdy crowds, and set backs. Keep your head up, stay focused and positive, and meet this adversity with a tough, competitive spirit. These are some of the abilities athletes bring to the table.
Well into your new position/season and your body is sore and mentally you feel fatigued. Multiple tests are coming, and big papers are due. But it’s TOURNAMENT TIME. Be a GAMER. Push yourself to raise the bar for not only you, but for all those around you. PLAY SMART. PLAY HARD. PLAY WITH PASSION. BE COMPETITIVE. And most importantly, EXECUTE and MAKE PLAYS. The best performers, on the court or in the office, find a way to do this on the biggest stage. Thats why you were recruited. That’s why you are on the court. And thats why employers want to hire you.
Looking back, what Hubie said makes total sense. There is no better preparation for your career like athletics. So remember, “Use basketball, don’t let basketball use you.”