To get a greater understanding of how sports can impact athletes post-college and in their careers, NCSA interviewed the President of Eastern Poultry – Ted Rueger – a third generation family-owned and operated poultry distributor that’s been around since 1954. Ted attended Duke University where he played collegiate tennis. Now as the president of a long-standing company, he expresses how he has been fortunate enough to use the lessons he learned from playing tennis in college to succeed in the world of business.
1. What College or University did you attend?
2. What college sport did you play?
3. What are the most important lessons you learned through sports?
Sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership, responsibility, time management to name a few.
4. What did you learn through sports that your “formal” education did not teach you?
Good question. A lot. But what comes to mind first is mental toughness. The ability to push yourself further, both physically and mentally, than you ever thought you could go. Probably the best analogy of that is of a distance runner. For them to run so fast for so long takes incredible mind control. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know how easy it is to allow negative thoughts into your mind. But you have to be able to suppress those thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
It sounds corny but we all know people who are able to do this because they always seem happy. They’re the people that everyone wants to be around and their positive energy is contagious. You can even see it in their body language. I’m a firm believer that acting like a winner is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A huge part of that is having the mental toughness to stay positive and to convince yourself that you’re a winner, even when it’s difficult.
5. How is business like sports?
Business and sports mirror each other in many ways. To be successful you need a strong team. That means putting people in positions where they are able to utilize their unique abilities and talents. You also have to be able to learn from your losses. Nobody likes losing, but unfortunately it happens. It’s never a total loss if you can learn something from it.
6. How have sports helped you become a leader in the business world?
Tennis helped me get into a great school. Once I was there, I met all these amazing people that were so much smarter than me. It was really humbling but also inspiring. And being competitive, it helped push me and drove me to expect more from myself both athletically and in the class room.
7. What advice do you have for up and coming college athletes?
As a high school junior or senior, I think it’s very easy to base your college decision solely on the “athletic” fit. For example, the best athletic facilities or a little larger scholarship offer. It’s important to broaden your decision making process and take a close look at the academic fit as well. I feel extremely lucky that tennis allowed me attend a great University. I loved being part of team and made friends that I’ll have for a lifetime but just as valuable was the education that I received.
To paraphrase an NCAA television commercial, there are a lot of collegiate athletes and almost all of them will be going pro in something other than sports. So it’s important to realize that and choose the school that’s the best all-around fit.