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Athletics are quite possibly the most practical part of a young student’s education. The life lessons that athletics have taught me have made me more likely to succeed in the classroom and in my future career. While I may never need to use the quadratic formula again (I certainly hope that is the case) the prescription of focus, hustle, hard work, and teamwork that athletics have written for me is something that I will employ later. There are a few characteristics that almost all collegiate and professional athletes share. These characteristics mold a person into much more than an athlete-they prepare them to become a productive member of society.
Athletes are almost always better at interpersonal skills than their non-athletic counterparts. Forget group projects-athletes are forced to spend several hours a day working with teammates (who they may or may not like) striving towards a common goal. The ability to push oneself and others beyond the limits of fatigue and pain is not commonly found in those who have not experienced serious athletic competition. Athletes also better grasp the concept of self-sacrifice for the greater good of the whole. Whether it’s throwing oneself at a significantly larger running back and holding on tenaciously for the tackle, or bunting to advance a teammate into scoring position, it is about as honorable an action as one can do in the field of competition. Former Pittsburgh Pirates scout and Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo says this with regards to teamwork: “The idea of coming together-we’re still not good at that in this country. In [sports] you do that all the time. You can’t win it alone. You can be the best pitcher in baseball, but somebody has to get you a run to win the game. It is a community activity. You need all nine people helping each other.”
Coming from a man who evaluates athletes for a professional franchise, I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume that conduct amongst teammates-even the annoying ones or the ones who constantly try to show you up-is evaluated at the highest levels of athletic success. Even the best and most gifted athletes in the world are not good enough without being a part of the team chemistry. How many coaches or players say on signing day that a certain school is the” right fit”? Much of that is determined by their interaction with other players on the team and the player’s ability to mesh with the team and stick with them through thick and thin.
What are you doing to be a better teammate? How are you preparing yourself to succeed after athletics?