The Important Lessons Youth Sports Teach Professionals in the Workplace

Teamwork and leadership are among the most sought-after skills in the workplace. Even though these are considered skills that can lead to a successful and accomplished professional future, most kids are not taught them from an early age. But they should. 

Leadership lessons help kids understand what it is to have responsibility and confidence for making choices while being empathetic to other people’s needs. As a child’s early years are the ones that build the foundation for their learning and development journey, nurturing these meaningful concepts progressively shapes them into their best version in the years to come.    

One of the best ways for children to create a teamwork and leadership experience from a young age is to participate in youth sports. Being part of a team or a positive league and engaging in individual sports gives students a chance to practice overcoming challenges, winning and losing, collaborating with the people around them, actively listening, and feeling safe taking risks which builds resilience. This will reflect in their professional lives later: According to Fortune, 95 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs played sports. While only 6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, the proportion of women CEOs who were athletes is similar—90 percent of them played sports at some point. 

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At my organization, Empower ME Academy, we focus on basketball excellence, of course. But besides being great players, we work with our students so they can become even better leaders becoming successful and well-rounded adults.

Below are some of the reasons why those who participated in youth sports are more likely to make great leaders and team members. 

Outlook on failure

Children who participate in sports understand what it’s like to fail. No one in sports always wins or gets by without making mistakes, and careers are no different. 

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It takes experience to learn how to deal with challenges when they arise. Youth sports provide children with a space to make mistakes, learn from them, then get up and keep going. Kids who have spent time participating in sports, whether on the court, field, or somewhere else, often have a better understanding of how to handle being out of their comfort zone, working with those who think differently, and having difficult emotions as they arise in the workplace.

They learn to listen 

Whether it be from a coach or their teammates, student-athletes learn to listen. Everyone needs guidance to perform their best regardless of work ethic, talent, or previous training. To grow and improve in sports, children learn to accept feedback constructively instead of pushing back. 

On teams, students learn how to navigate conflict, communicate, work with each other, and lift their teammates up to help them grow and perform their best. Knowing how to use feedback to improve their skills pays off later on in the workplace as they take on projects with their coworkers and start learning new functions of their job and put the team first.

Empathetic leadership 

How many times in the workplace have you had a boss or coworker clueless about the challenges you are going through? It is not unusual for our peers to do their chunk of work without taking an interest in the team. Those who have participated in youth sports, however, are more likely to be aware that an issue with one player affects the whole team. 

This is because youth sports put children in environments where they interact with people of different ages and backgrounds, which teaches them to understand people are different. Allowing them to be curious about what they are going through and figure out how they can support them in times of struggle. This is called empathetic leadership. 

Developing a growth mindset

Sports also teach resilience. One of the most important things a child should learn.  Whether in the form of failure or coming back from an injury, athletes face setbacks all the time—it’s as much a part of the game as practice or playing. 

Students who grow up participating in sports learn to accept these challenges as they arise and step up to meet them. This perseverance can help them in all aspects of their life going forward, and in the workplace, it can give them the confidence and serenity to deal with unfamiliar circumstances when they come up. 

The ups and downs in sports prepare children for the ups and downs in their careers (and life in general) and shape them to approach challenges with a growth mindset.

No matter what field students choose when they step into their careers, participating in youth sports can give them a sense of how to approach challenges and help them succeed in their futures. An adaptable framework for leading and contributing to a team is invaluable in the workplace. 

Not only does it allow them to cooperate and work effectively with the people around them and see growth opportunities, but it can help them take a positive outlook when faced with difficult situations.

Coach Jerome Gumbs is a former collegiate and professional basketball player and the founder of Empower ME Academy (EMA). Founded in 2013, EMA is a social business enterprise that teaches fundamental basketball skills and concepts combined with leadership development training.

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