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What You Can Learn From Professional Sport Championships

(Flickr – Nicole Yeary)

It’s been an exciting week for professional champsionships: the Chicago Blackhawks took home the Stanley Cup Monday night, and the Golden State Warriors clenched the NBA Championship Tuesday, wrapping up a couple major seasons for the time being. Both series were close the entire way through with some incredible competitors on the court and on the ice.

Superstars like LeBron James, Steph Curry, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews are remarkable to watch night after night. Their performance at the highest level of competition in their sport is something to admire in and of itself. But beyond their ball and puck handling skills, there’s a lot you can learn from professional sport superstars like these.

It’s not where you go to school, but what you do with the experience and education that matters.

Steph Curry had high hopes for playing college basketball.

His father played at Virginia Tech and went on to play almost two decades in the NBA. Yet when it came time to go through his own recruiting process, it was clear to Steph and his family he just wasn’t at that level. Steph went on to take an offer from a small liberal arts school in North Carolina called Davidson College. While at Davidson, Steph lead his team and conference in scoring multiple years in a row, and set the NCAA record for most three pointers in a season.

Steph made the most of the opportunity at hand, at the school that was the right fit for him, bettered himself every step of the way, and is now an NBA Champion.

Don’t think that it’s Division I or bust. It’s never “anything …or bust.” You have to find the college where you can see yourself fitting in socially, where you can excel at your major and academics, and where you can contribute meaningfully to the team.

Character counts.

It seems like there’s never a shortage of good things to say about Jonathon Toews.

He’s a leader in every sense of the word, and it paid off for him Monday night winning his third Stanley Cup. From his demeanor with the press and his ease with teammate, rookies and veterans alike, he always clearly presents himself as a class act.

But character doesn’t come from just how you carry yourself on the main stage, although that’s part of it.

Character comes from what you’re doing when no one is looking. From the kind of person you are behind the scenes — extra laps after everyone’s left, or extra stick drills on a Saturday morning, or extra time spent visualizing that course.

Character is kindness. And in the early hours of Tuesday morning, (or wee hours of Monday night), after celebrating a huge win and leaving the United Center for the season, Jonathon Toews was spotted by reporters stopping and thanking the United Center security team and staff.

It was just a small act of respect and gratitude. But, I think, for the people who will receive no credit for the Stanley Cup, but worked all season long to support the team in a different role off the ice, it wasn’t a small act at all. It’s a big nod to Jonathan’s character.

Are you highlighting the ways that you are a rock star in personal statements about your recruiting? Or in conversations you have with coaches? Character counts; above all else, character counts.

True champions put team first.

Love or hate LeBron, his team-first approach to the final series against the Golden State Warriors was remarkable.

With almost every other Cleveland “all star” sidelined with injuries, LeBron could’ve easily made a million excuses for any loss, or could have taken all the credit for every win.

But he didn’t. He reported to the press table the entire series, talking about being better for the team, working hard for the team, and playing for the guys next to him on the court or watching from the bench. In the words of Bo Schembachler, “The team, the team, the team.”

Win or lose, it’s about the team, and LeBron made sure that was the case for Cleveland in the finals.

How do you keep the team first? It’s more than just being a reliable team player. Are you there to support your teammates when they need it, cheering them on for that PR, helping them when they’ve fallen?


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About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.