Roughly 10,000 men play basketball in college in any given year, and only 400 (give or take) go on to play in the NBA. In fact, only 1 percent of all college athletes go professional. This means many athletes are making the transition from their respective sports to the corporate world. Today’s point guards and forwards are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and executives. And it’s no surprise that athletes go on to succeed in the business world: The DNA of an athlete is built to compete — on or off the court.
I played basketball at Benedictine College and lead my team in scoring while leading the nation in field goal percentage. Today, I’m an entrepreneur, COO and co-founder of ShotTracker, which developed a wearable tech solution that tracks basketball players’ shot attempts, makes and misses in real time. I’d like to think that I’ve successfully transitioned from a corner shot to the corner office. In fact, so did the whole ShotTracker team, 85 percent of whom were also college athletes.
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After spending some time evaluating what makes us tick, we identified five traits we utilized as athletes that have helped us become successful entrepreneurs and executives:
You can’t score if you don’t shoot. Athletes live for that last second shot. Down by one, 15 seconds to go. The best athletes won’t shy away from that game-winning opportunity, and they know if you don’t shoot, you don’t score. Over the years, I’ve come across many people who talk about starting businesses, but don’t take the next step. Five years later, they’re still just talking about starting their business.
As athletes, we believe that we can do anything. We may fail, but we’re going to fail trying while giving it our all. This adversity translates to success. Success may not come the first time, but success is inevitable with this mindset.
Prepare to compete — and win. Athletes embrace competition. The same is true as an entrepreneur. Building a company is tough, and the only way to win is to work hard and outperform the competition.
As an athlete, you know competition is healthy. It motivates you to train harder, which makes you better. Similarly, successful entrepreneurs know that you need to get better every single day.
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Dig deep. In 1981, Cincinnati set the record for the most overtimes when they defeated Bradley in seven overtimes. The ability to dig deep and fight through the pain, suffering and fatigue is a rare talent. Entrepreneurs need this same intensity and fortitude to withstand the emotional roller coaster that comes with launching a new business.
There will be times you’ll want to give up. Keep pushing to go that extra mile. Only then can you be successful. Star athletes dig deep and sacrifice their body, mind and soul to go the extra mile. Entrepreneurs have to do the same.
Be a team player. My college basketball team was great, but not everyone got along. However, when the time came to step on the court, we all put our differences aside and worked together as one unit. We had one goal, one objective: To win the next game. In business, just like sports, team dynamics can make or break your success. Each person needs to understand their responsibilities — whether they’re the star player or not — the team comes first.
Lead by example. As team captain, I realized how I approached my workouts, practices and games would set the tone for the team. I had to be a leader and set an example for my teammates. It was my responsibility to learn how to motivate each individual to get the best out of them.
The corner office comes with just as much responsibility. Peter Drucker states, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” As a leader, everyone is looking at you.
All the hours you spend in the gym in college may not lead you to the NBA, but if it leads to success as an entrepreneur, I’d say those were hours well spent.
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