Professional Athletics Provide Foundation for Betterment in Life After Sport

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Athletes have a proven track record of success in the business world. PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi played cricket in college. Sunoco CEO Lynn Elsenhans was a member of the women’s basketball team at Rice University. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan played rugby at Brown. The list goes on-and-on.

On the surface, athletics may seem as a fun past-time for driven individuals before they have the opportunity to go into the business world. This misconception is not the case. Athletics act as a catalyst for the creation of certain characteristics inside an individual that reaps success later on in life. Drew Westervelt, the founder and current COO of HEX, lists five lessons from his career as a professional lacrosse player that directly correlate to his success in the business world: 

Be prepared – Westervelt believes that no matter the situation, “the worst thing in life is being unprepared.” In life, everything that is worthwhile takes time and evolves. For an athlete, playing at a high level, whilst having the opportunity to impact one’s own leadership and playing ability, may be incredibly worthwhile. The path to reaching this success is not the same for everyone. Westervelt’s preparation and effort spent learning from his mistakes allowed for him to evolve as a player and business person when issues arose both on the field and with HEX.

Be persistent – There are going to be more failures, trials, and tribulations than there are going to be successes. As Westervelt puts it, “in any endeavor there are almost always significantly more valleys than there are peaks.” When you suffer an injury in a game or practice, how do you respond? If you have your minutes in a game taken away from you, how do you handle that situation? Both Drew Westervelt and James Harden believe that a positive mindset is the most powerful tool in overcoming any obstacle. The ability to think positively, view each challenge as a point for growth rather than decline allows an individual to see their mistakes objectively and learn what they need to accomplish in order to become successful.

Trust your team – It isn’t physically possible for someone to go through life by themselves. Humans are given certain physical traits that allow for them to interact and build relationships with other similar beings. In team sports, you alone are not going to win a game. Even in a solitary sport, an athlete relies on the teaching and wisdom of a coach or inspirational figure to teach them how to succeed. Just as members of a team need to have faith in one another to achieve a goal, businesses are the same. No entrepreneur, no matter their learnedness or training in a specific field, has the ability to accomplish every task that is necessary in order for a business to hit its maximum proficiency. The course of action, in setting a business up for success, is defined by reaching out to people who already have success in a field you want be in or have achieved similar dreams to your own. Westervelt argues that by surrounding yourself with great people, you are able to identify team goals, and metrics to achieve those goals, turning them into a reality.

Ask for feedback – and listen – One of the differentiating traits between the elite and average individuals in sports is the ability to seek out feedback. Anyone can ask what they need to accomplish in order to improve; however, for a passionate individual to seek honest and unbiased feedback from someone they trust, is not a quality that general athletes typically possess. It is not just having a desire to get better that produces growth.  The ability to swallow one’s pride, letting that criticism modify their play enough to turn-the-corner to victory, is what separates the best from the standard athletes. Westervelt thinks whether you are an athlete or a business owner, accepting completely honest feedback and criticism allows for you to grow in every aspect as a person and expert in your craft.

Lead, don’t follow – In sports, everyone is told not to be a follower. Being a follower is someone that goes with the flow, never having the courage to fail. To Westervelt, leading means believing in your ability and confidence to make your value be seen by actions to drive your team or business forward. Positive self-talk and belief in one’s value and role in a group is the foundation for leadership to truly better a team or business. Being a leader most importantly means staying true to your personal values. Westervelt encourages a leader to influence others in their own way, while always falling back on the belief in what makes themselves and their business stand apart from their competition.

Playing lacrosse at the highest levels has allowed for Drew Westervelt to grow upon the lessons learned during his time on the lacrosse field. Preparedness, persistence, faith in a team, asking and listening to criticism, and the ability to become a leader allowed for him to play lacrosse professionally and internationally. These five traits that elevated him to success in lacrosse coincide with the success he has found in the business world with his company, HEX. The ability to transfer skills on the field and apply them to every facet of life are one of the reasons why athletes make incredible employees for any business.

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