Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sports: A strong work ethic

The fifth reason I like sports is that they teach the importance of a strong work ethic.

In order to be successful in sports you have to show up, ready to practice, and ready to play. You need to follow the coach's instructions, even if you don't understand them. You can't quit, even when you might feel like it. If you do these things, your chances of success improve, and so does your team's.

I'm not saying that sports are the only place to develop a strong work ethic, but the days of paper routes, mowing the neighbor's lawn, or even babysitting may be gone. Chores at home help. First "real" jobs help. But sports provide a very motivating place to learn to work hard with your team.

Recently I started exchanging e-mails with a friend I dated in high school. Her grandparents owned a burger place where she worked sometimes. Later, after she married, her husband and her, along with some business partners, opened a small restaurant. In discussing with her what she looked for in an employee, she stated, "I'd be happy if the just showed up for work every day."

This tell me that many employees lack a strong work ethic. My friend would have been happy if they had a work ethic, let alone a strong one. A strong work ethic is valuable in sports and in life.

Many of the habits that a coach is looking for and trying to instill, are the same habits employers are looking for. Show up on time, be ready to contribute, maintain good levels of effort, be willing to learn and improve, get along with others: be a team player.

Although it's possible to play sports and not develop develop these characteristics, you have to work at it. You have to ignore your coaches, your team captains, and most of the stand-out athletes on your team. It can be done. You see it on teams and later on the job: they are the slackers. They didn't learn. They didn't want to.

Just because sports attempt to teach something, doesn't mean everyone will learn it.

But other athletes go beyond a strong work ethic: they excel. They stay after practice. They research and study the game. They watch movies. They ask questions. They don't give up, even when others do. They find a way to perform at optimum levels. They better themselves. They do better than expected. Sports afford them a training ground for developing life skills that will launch them into atmospheres of achievement unknown to many. Sports help them to develop into better people. (Not better than others, but better versions themselves.)

These are just some of the reasons I still play sports. Sports don't just provide benefits to the young, they provide the benefits to the young-at-heart. How young are you?


  1. Don, I agree that dedication to a sport will foster a stronger work ethic. I often joke with my husband that kids today run as fast as they can away from anything requiring real work. My boys have played soccer for year. When they put their all into a game or practice, I feel great knowing that they are learning about perseverance, team play, and working hard. I can tell that they are not only physically "more alive", but also spiritually renewed. Don, these sports blogs would make for a terrific article in a sports journal. You lead an enlightening and informative discussion about how sports can have such a positive impact for all.

  2. Don, the English major in me can't let my last post stand without this little correction: "My boys have played soccer for years." Not just one year :) I hate when I make those little typos!

  3. Don-

    Well said. I know for a fact that a HUGE portion of my work ethic comes from playing sports. It's amazing the changes that can happen when a person is willing to put in the work, effort, and keep a positive mental attitude (PMA... all the way!). Running track and cross-country taught me that, and I'm so glad it did. As a fairly new professional, I'm finding out that the paybacks of having a work ethic are HUGE, and it's surprising how many folks don't have it.

    Thanks for the thoughts, as usual. You rock! :)

  4. @septembermom: Thanks for the comment. I wasn't an English major but my mini-mistakes annoy me as well. Good writing is re-writing and developing a critical eye. Interesting that you note both a physical and spiritual aliveness that sports provide. I agree. Sports provide perspectives: personal vistas. Perhaps sports work ethic will transfer to chore work ethic? It's easier to learn intensity when it's fun... later, when it's not-so-fun. (But then, I've learned that chores can be fun too! Just not as fun as sports. ;-) )

    @Miss H: As usual, your comments are insightful and welcome. So, not only did you run the mile in track, but you ran cross-country too! As if the mile wouldn't teach work ethic, cross-country teaches it to the max. (Any former sprinters care to comment?) I especially like your PMA comment: Positive Mental Attitude. I think I developed my PMA elsewhere, but I can see where learning PMA is another awesome reason for playing sports. I didn't list it in my first five reasons, but it is indeed a great reason to love sports. Teaching is a lot like running cross-country (on a hilly course).