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Why Athletes Make Great Employees

SelectOne
Thu, Feb 25, 2016

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A quick preface:  I am not an athlete.  Bar league hockey and part-time CrossFit in between work and chasing two young daughters around constitute the majority of my athletic endeavors!

With that said, 37% of our internal team are former collegiate athletes. First hand, we’ve observed a strong correlation between high performing team members and competitive athletic success.

There are a number of attributes required of athletes competing at a high level that are also requisites for top business performers. In fact, research shows between 5% and 15% of former student athletes go onto earn significantly more than non-sports playing peers. 

So that brings us to one critical question, why do athletes make great employees?

Dedication and Work Ethic 
It’s nearly impossible to advance in a highly competitive college sport without being dedicated to one’s craft.  Early morning practices, running, weightlifting sessions, and rehabbing through injuries are commonplace, all sandwiched in between studying for tests, papers, projects, and group work.  
  • Time management and prioritization skills are honed, but none of this happens or stays in balance by accident; hard work is usually the foundation. 
Competitive Spirit
All of that time, effort, and pain is typically fueled by an intense competitive spirit.  The will to win, to beat the person on the other side of the chalk, has to be strong.  We’ve found this isn’t the type of attribute that a person turns on and off.  
  • Competitors tend to compete in nearly everything they do, and if channeled properly, this can be an incredibly powerful tool.
Team Collaboration
Most competitive college sports are team based.  Even so-called individual sports like golf and tennis find athletes training and competing as part of a team.  
  • Successful teams communicate, hold each other accountable in healthy, productive ways, and drive each other to be better

It's Not ALL About the Athletes

To be clear, we also have many non-athletes (63%) at our company contributing at the highest levels, and we’ve placed similar non-athletes who’ve performed at the top of their professions.  

And be on the lookout for candidates who worked their way through college, sought out leadership roles in college, the community, and philanthropic organizations, or individuals who made big sacrifices or overcame significant adversity to get to where they are.  Chances are you’ll notice similar highly desirable attributes.

Athletes Don't Guarantee a Good Hire

All of this isn’t to suggest hiring former college athletes will guarantee a good hire – be aware especially of locker room cancers, coach-killers, talent-coasters, and drafters.  

It’s important to ask questions about the candidates’ experiences as part of a team – training, competing, and balancing schoolwork, dealing with difficult teammates, resolving conflict, stepping up and leading – to gain an understanding of their character and attributes important to being successful in the role and your company.  

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