Athletes in the Office: Being A Team Player

Athletes in the Office: Being A Team Player

Karyn Mullins
Tune into the ongoing NCAA Tournament, and you are sure to see an advertisement that proclaims, "We're going pro in everything but sports." This is a reference to the vast majority of college athletes who transition into the workforce outside of the sports world.

The skills that make these athletes so successful in competition translate to the workplace -- and you need not be a former star in sports to employ similar qualities on the job.

Team players are critical to a productive workplace for so many reasons. Virgin Pulse’s Labor of Love survey found that 40 percent of respondents indicated their co-workers as the top reason they love their company.

Additionally, 66 percent said their relationship with colleagues positively impacts their focus or productivity at work, and 55 percent said their colleagues positively impact their stress levels.

The main advantage is employee engagement and well-being. Athletes who have experience playing team sports are role model team players. So if you have athletic experience, use it to your advantage in your job search and in your career.

This is how your sports experience makes you the best team player in the office:

Setting Goals

Athletes set fitness and performance goals and know how to execute. They can identify three types of goals: performance, outcome, and “do your best” goals.

Performance goals are activities or behaviors that you must control and you need to complete in order to find success. They emphasize the process that delivers an outcome. An example of that would be to complete strength training four times a week for a full year.

Outcome goals are focused on the end result: a type of measurement. For example, win the league championship.

“Do your best” goals are more vague and not focused on outcome or process, but on the participant doing their best. For example, “We will try our best to play good offense.” It’s more of an intention that should inspire you.

When you have experience with these goals, you can apply them to your workplace team environment just as you would on the field. You’re giving your co-workers perspective and setting actionable processes for the whole team. Thinking Big Picture

When faced with 162 regular season games, baseball players are keeping their focus on the short term goals, each game and inning, but they are still looking at the big picture -- winning the World Series. It’s important for employees to avoid getting lost in the weeds of the day to day and forgetting the larger scale goals.

Teams need to take a few moments to reflect on how things are going and step back to look at the big picture. As an athlete, you can be the voice in this big-picture thinking and communicate with your teammates to emphasize the importance of brainstorming about working smarter.

Reevaluate your goals, find actionable steps to take, and plan for better work solutions. If you see something is making your team work harder, like an overcomplicated customer relationship management system, you can break that down to smaller portions and identify where to improve efficiency.

Knowing Balance

Apply the balance you learned in training to attaining the balance of team dynamics in the office, learning how to leverage complementary strengths of each employee. You know each person on the team plays a specific role and everyone relies on each other.

The pitcher can’t be expected to make the clutch hits, just like the catcher can’t be expected to throw a good curveball. There’s a balance on the team.

Strong team players know their role and can speak up when they need help. So if you struggle with nurturing leads, call on a colleague who excels at customer relations. Athletes know how to make the most of their abilities and can acknowledge when it’s time to rely on others.

Being Solutions-Oriented

Just as in a sports team, instead of cutting a teammate down, you build them up and focus on solutions, not internal conflict. It’s important to stay motivated and inspired, so concentrate on celebrating others’ successes.

True team players understand that when the whole team succeeds, each individual succeeds. Staying focused on moving forward, not dwelling on past failures, is important to team success. So if a sales pitch falls flat, you’re the first one to speak up and start looking for issues in the process.

Athletes know that when they find the problem, they can find the solution. This is a main reason why they are the most valuable team player on staff.

Collaborate and Make Decisions

Athletes are confident. They know what to do and how to do it. When they don’t, they find a way to learn.

Apply this confidence and decisiveness in team projects at work. For example, if you disagree with an idea about inventory management at a meeting, speak up and share your opinion. Team players need to be decisive and actively engaged in collaborative environments.

Karyn Mullins is the executive vice president and general manager of, the one place with all the tools, statistics, and information needed to connect job seekers with employers for sports employment openings at all levels. Follow JobsInSports on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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