From the time I was five, I was a basketball player.
As a kid, it was instructional league and my church’s CYO program. As a teen, it was high school varsity. As a college student, it was a brief intramural league appearance and some pick-up games. Basketball wasn’t the only sport I played—actually, I played three all the way through high school—and it truthfully wasn’t always my favorite, but it was the one that taught me the most.
Although I don’t play regularly anymore, basketball taught me more than just how to dribble with my left hand or how to do a lay-up; It taught me valuable life lessons that I still use daily as a professional and an adult. Here’s what I learned:
1. How to be a productive member of a team
It should go without saying but basketball is a team sport. You can’t win by yourself. The more you contribute to your team, the more success you’ll have. This is true for basketball and also your professional life. No matter where you work or what career you have, you’ll more than likely find yourself working with others. As an employee, you need to be willing to work on a team and pull your own weight.
2. How to be responsible for something
When you’re a student-athlete, you quickly learn that playing on a varsity team is a privilege and not a right. You need to stay out of trouble, keep up with your schoolwork, and represent the team as best as you can. The same goes for the real world. In your job, you need to take responsibility for your actions, the work you are doing, and how you are representing your company and its values.
3. How to work hard for what you want
Playing a sport, particularly basketball, was physically and mentally exhausting at times. Much like in a career or personal project, success doesn’t come easy. It requires a lot of work, sweat, and maybe some tears. If I wanted to stay on the basketball team, I had to sacrifice a few things, like my evenings, weekends, and a few early mornings. So I did. This goes for the rest of your life too. As an employee, parent, sibling, or friend, you need to decide what is important to you and make it a priority.
4. How to win and lose
Of all of the things basketball has taught me over the years, this is by far the most important. I wasn’t always on winning teams. In fact, I was usually on a team that lost more games than it won. And that’s OK. My teammates and I, specifically from high school, learned how to lose with grace and sportsmanship. This is one of the most valuable things a person can learn, in my opinion. There’s always going to be a time where things won’t go your way, and if you can handle it appropriately, you’ll be better off. Plus, when you win, you’ll do so humbly because you know first-hand what it’s like to be on the other side. And that’s something that will help you be a better person in any aspect of your life.
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