How Athlete Skills Payoff in Real Life

If your volleyball career ended tomorrow what skills would you take away? As handy as pancakes and jump back setting is on the volleyball court, chances are you will not spend the rest of your adult life playing volleyball.  So, what other skills are you developing as an athlete? These are the abilities I’m talking about today.  These are the big picture skills.


Skill 1 – Valuing experience over hours put in

Have you heard of the 10,000-hour rule? The origin of this idea is from the book, “Outliers” where Malcolm Gladwell wrote that “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.”  Oh, if only this simple formula was enough, but alas, even Gladwell had to go back and clarify that “practice isn’t a sufficient condition for success… The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.”  So, sports aren’t as simple as clocking in and clocking out, they require deliberate practice with the day in day out focus of refining technique and expanding skillsets.

But what does this mean in real life?  Yeah it might not sound great becoming an expert compliance coordinator, but honestly trying to becoming an expert at anything is quite the challenge.  And what kind of athlete doesn’t like a challenge?  Just like on a volleyball court, becoming great doesn’t mean just showing up and completing the task.  Some call it a growth mindset, but the main idea is that there will never be a time that you will be good enough that you don’t need to practice.  The goal is always to improve and that mindset can be brought into real life and carry you to greater heights than your none-athlete coworkers.

Skill 2 – Honoring progress over excuses

You can have one or the other but not both.  Stress from school?  Worn out from lifting and conditioning?  Coach is being unfair?  On and on and on.  If you are just starting your athletic career then I’ve got bad news for you, it gets harder.  But being an athlete is a period where you learn to handle the hard stuff because the volleyball doesn’t care how many pages your research paper needs to be.  All that volleyball cares about is whether you put in your time in the gym, got your deliberate touches in and prepared yourself to be on the court today.  If you are able to do that day after day after day, then you can create something special.

Now, back to real life.  Is it snowing?  Is your least favorite task waiting for you at work?  Is your bed just really comfortable?  Adult life is filled with things you don’t want to do (like get out of bed) but the good news is that your entire athletic career has shown you that persevering through the hard stuff leads to numerous rewards.  So yeah you could let excuses win today and call in sick or make up a fake doctor’s appointment to leave early, but then where will you be tomorrow?  There are no rewards to be reaped from excuses just lost opportunities to become stronger and better than you were the day before.


Skill 3 – Appreciating team success over individual progress


How do you feel after a loss?  Probably depends on the situation, how close the game was, and whether you had a shot at winning but I think overall it is safe to say that it doesn’t feel good.  Now, how do you feel when the team loses but you played well?  Personally, I’ve had mixed feelings in that sort of situation and I hope you would too.  Team sports are something special, like an experiment of how to make the whole team greater than the sum of its players.  So, while it is great to have games where your individual hard work pays off and you can see progress, it is a lot more fun to celebrate a win with your teammates.

How does this translate off the volleyball court? Simply, it means sometimes putting aside personal projects to contribute to group tasks.  Similar to the flow of a team on the court, working with others creates workplace mojo that improves coworker relationships (which is known to lead to free lunches on occasion). This is important even if you don’t consider yourself a “people person” because not everyone gets the athlete crash course in teamwork.  You can make choices and create a plan. So as worthwhile as the project you are working on is, sacrificing a little bit of that time to contribute to the group task allows the entire team to walk away from the workday with a win.