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What Sports Has Taught Me About Life

13 Feb

Sports often serve as an allegory to life. And in some cases, they also serve as instruction for success or at the least, they serve as great learning tools for people. Playing sports gives its athletes many smaller gifts besides a good physique and better health. Athletics teaches its participants valuable life lessons that apply to all facets of their lives. Here are just a few of the morals that sports give to athletes.


1. Teamwork Works Better – Football is a game that is based solely in the principles of teamwork. Every single person on each team has a singular purpose within the scheme of the game. Offensive linemen block defenders, the quarterback distributes the ball, and the running back and wide receivers attempt to score touchdowns all in an attempt to defeat the other team. On defense, the defensive linemen try to get to the football in the backfield, linebackers stop the run and guard against short throws, and defensive backs protect against the pass. Similarly, executives put together teams of workers to finish important projects rather than assigning them to one person. People that work as teams generally are more productive than those who work by themselves. Teamwork teaches a few separate lessons. It teaches responsibility because every person in a group has a role that contributes to the concept of the project. It builds trust through work towards a collective goal that is only reached with collaboration. And, it also allows people to find the type of work at which they excel by forcing them to focus on one small assigned role.


2. Never Get Too High or Too Low – You are never as good as you think you are when you win, or as bad as you believe you are when you lose. In sports, both fear and apathy can be paralyzing to players. So, coaches direct their players not let their emotions get too high or too low. Keeping a steady countenance helps athletes to raise their level of play through focus. When emotions are too high or low, it is impossible for most players to play up to their potential. Similarly, in real life, a cool head in the workplace helps employees to maximize their productivity in the face of highly stressful obstacles. There are always multiple deadlines and various unforeseen factors that can limit your ability to do your job. When faced with these circumstances, you must be able to keep calm, identify the problems, and relay and execute a viable resolution to each hurdle. And, if you can keep an even temperament, then you will be able to solve most problems under duress. The people who can rein in their emotions and solve problems are invaluable to the peers and their employers.


3. Practice How You Play – One of my favorite sports maxims is, “Luck favors the prepared.” Sports, like life, is about preparation. The more you know about your opponent on the field, the more likely you are to be in the right place and get the breaks that you need to defeat him. Knowing their tendencies, their style of play, and scouting their players’ abilities prepares you for your match against them. Being prepared on a daily basis to attack your daily goals readies you for all the roadblocks that lie ahead of you. When you know where the pitfalls that may be in your near future are located, then you can avoid them more easily. Practicing your profession gives you the necessary repetitions that allow you to act instinctively when under pressure rather than react slowly and unsuccessfully.


4. Find What You Can Do – If you are 5’3″ and 120 lbs., then you are not going to be a post player in the NBA or a lineman in the NFL. That means that you need to learn how to shoot the basketball, dribble it, and pass it for a basketball career or learn to play defensive back if you want to play football. If you are rangy, slow, and can not throw any type of ball more than three feet, then you are probably not going to have a long career in football. However, height may be an advantage for you in basketball. Dikembe Mutumbo was tall, slow, and wiry (though he was strong for his size), but he was one of the best shot-blockers that ever played in the NBA. You have to find the skill set that will help you to succeed and focus on perfecting those abilities. In day-to-day life, people need to find their niche to be successful. Everyone has been given special natural talents that are unique to only them. Recognizing your talent, honing that ability, and specializing in the appropriate career allows you to excel in all your endeavors.


5. There Is Always Someone Better – There will always be someone who is better than you at everything. Even Michael Jordan, the best player to ever play basketball, says that there were players from his hometown that were better than he was when he was younger. And if you keep playing any sport long enough, you will eventually run into a player who is bigger, faster, and stronger than you. You have to make a decision to be and play better when you meet that guy. He is going to blow by you or bully through you on the court. You have to learn from your experience with him. Pay attention to his footwork and anticipate his moves. Playing against stronger competition makes you a better player if you are up for the challenge. Take every incident where you are outmatched and use it as lesson for your own betterment.


6. Adapt – Life occasionally calls for you to be creative on the fly. In the 2010 NCAA tournament, the Duke Blue Devils were on the verge of losing the championship game to the Butler Bulldogs because they could not break Butler’s 2-3 zone. Instead of going to the playbook, Coach K (the legendary head coach of Duke) pulled up a chalkboard and diagrammed a play for his team. It had marginal success against the zone, but the Blue Devils were still losing. So, Coach K modified his play again by inverting his offense and putting his best guard where the post player was originally. The Duke Blue Devils won another championship that year. The most productive people in sports and in the workplace are generally the most flexible and versatile ones. If you only know one way to behave in any given situation, then everything has to fall in place for you to achieve your goals. When you are flexible, you can change and capitalize in many different circumstances.


7. Do Not Be Afraid to Take A Shot – In every sport, there is a play or two where there is no downside to taking a big shot. In football, your shot could be throwing to your best receiver who is streaking down the field in man-to-man coverage on the outside. Your shot in basketball is taking a three point shot to break open a game that has been played tight for an extended period of time. Life gives you the same opportunities and you have to recognize those chances when they present themselves. There are always opportunities to make money in front of you. You just have to have the vision to seize them. Though nothing is gained without some risk, the best investors take calculated risks and cash in on big opportunities.


8. You Learn More From Defeat – Losses show you your deficiencies, and victories assuage the wounds that normally alert people to their shortcomings. You rarely learn anything from a big win. Unless you were a huge underdog in the game, you have the same information after a win that you had before it. You were better than the person or team that you faced. However, losses expose your weaknesses. When a team beats you it is always because that team performed better than you at some critical aspect of the game. This insight shows you exactly what part of your game that you should be practicing. Losing gives you an opportunity to become better at your craft, and it should be used as such. In life, when you miss out on a promotion that you think that you deserved, it forces you to look back at where you could have done more at the job. Did you show up early to work like the guy that got the promotion? Did you ask for more responsibility instead of simply doing what you were asked? Did you make sure that your boss and his boss knew that you do excellent work? Having a good work ethic and doing spectacular work does not matter if your superiors do not know your quality of work. But, you can learn from your failure and succeed the next time. Plus, losing instills a more fundamental drive in most people that will help them in future endeavors. Winning every time can promote apathy.

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