As a society, we place professional sportspeople on the same pedestal as TV stars or red carpet celebs, but it’s frequently overlooked that they also have many qualities that can prove to be a huge advantage in business.
Most professionals retire in their early 30s but only a small proportion of ex-professionals remain in the game through media roles or coaching. That means there’s a rich pool of driven, ambitious and dedicated individuals looking for a new career in the prime of their life. More and more organisations are starting to realise this, and are employing sportspeople with great success.
A prime example is Josh Lewsey, one of England’s most decorated rugby players. After retiring as a player in 2009, the European Cup and World Cup winner worked for PwC and Citigroup, and has just been appointed Asia-Pacific FSO People Advisory Services Leader at EY.
Life After Professional Sport (LAPS) is an organisation that has been set up to provide career advice and opportunities to current or former elite athletes. One of the founders, Robbie Simpson (current Exeter City footballer), says: “We’re regularly told by business that former elite athletes are among the best hires they’ve ever made.”
So what characteristics can former athletes bring to your organisation?
1. Tenacity – Ex-athletes spend weeks, or even months, preparing for competition and this strong work ethic is always crucial to succeed. This determination and expectation to see things through to the end translates well into a business environment and ensures that projects receive the necessary focus all the way to completion.
2. Goal-driven – Athletes are used to setting their own goals, and ultimately doing everything they can to achieve them. If they don’t do it first time around, as former tennis pro Martina Navratilova said, "failure is an opportunity to do better". Athletes work hard to improve and find efficiencies in order to do better next time.
3. Discipline – The life of an elite athlete revolves around discipline and motivation. The ability to stick to a schedule, work under pressure and deliver to a deadline are all reasons why an ex-athlete can bring success, time and again, for your organisation.
4. Collaboration – Whether they played a team sport or not, athletes can spot other people’s strengths and maximise the range of skills so the collective goal is achieved. Playing professional sport constantly presents unexpected challenges, which often need immediate reactions. This experience, and the ability to accept accountability within a team, can make ex-pros key members of your team.
5. Analysis – As well as being given feedback by their coaches, professional athletes consistently assess their own performance, both physically and mentally. The ability to self-reflect and analyse what went wrong (or right), and how any learnings can be implemented next time to improve performance, is as crucial in business as it is in sport.
The more obvious qualities sportspeople will bring to your business, such as drive and discipline, are important. However, it’s the more subtle qualities, such as learning from failure and being open to coaching and criticism, that provide the most convincing argument to hire ex-professionals.
For more information on how your business can go about hiring ex-professional sportspeople, please get in touch.
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