Updated: Mar 10, 2020
I have played basketball my entire life. I fell in love with the sport when I was 8 years old and eventually turned it into a scholarship and an opportunity to further my education. I've played on teams that have cut down nets and I've played on teams that struggled to compete. I've been the best player on the team and I've been a role player. Through success and failure in basketball, I learned a lot about business. Now that I have a career, the similarities between the two are undeniable. The focus of this is going to be on basketball but it can be applied to just about any other team sport.
Talent doesn't equal success
Talent is certainly a great place to start but the word potential can be a huge burden on a person. Without the proper work ethic, talent is wasted. We can all think of examples of a teammate who had the skill set to be extremely successful but didn't see it pan out because of a lack of desire. The difference between mediocrity and greatness is often times the work you put in. Nothing is more frustrating to a coach or a manager than having someone who has all the skill in the world but refuses to put in the work.
Things go wrong. Deals don't go through, you miss sales goals, you lose games, you miss shots. More important than what actually happens is your response to the adverse situation. Very rarely in basketball does a team win a game without trailing at some point. You have to understand that there are ups and downs to the game. You've got to stay focused on the end goal. The true character of a person is not what they do when things are great, but rather what they do when with their back is up against the wall.
There are several styles of leadership out there. I'm not here to judge one versus another but what I can tell you is that I've been on teams with great leadership and I've been on teams with poor leadership. I've seen leaders completely lose the support of their teammates based on their actions and words on the court. I've also seen a team rally around a leader. The one thing I can say for sure about leadership is that understanding the impact of every behavior on the people around you is crucial. Lead by example.
Everyone wants to win but not everyone is willing to do everything it takes to win. When you look at every successful team in basketball there are unsung heroes that do things that may not show up on a stat sheet. For example, setting good screens will help a team score but often goes unrecognized. When you look at a successful business you'll see the same thing. Successful teams in any situation are like a car. Some parts are more important than others but they are all necessary for the car to work properly. Being selfless for the betterment of the team is key.
Trust your teammates
Even in a game of pick-up basketball where you've never played with the other 4 players on your team, you have to put some trust in their ability. You can't do everything on your own. If you don't trust your teammates, your team will fail. Each team member may have a different role to fill but you have to instill confidence in them by empowering them to get the job done. Along with trusting your teammates comes the responsibility to fill your role on the team. You don't want to be the weakest link in the chain. Your teammates are relying on you just as much as you rely on them.
I could go on about the benefits of playing basketball and team sports in general. It truly helps in developing people into contributing employees in the workplace. Also, I could write a completely separate post about the benefit of being a collegiate athlete but I'd really like to hear from other athletes about what they learned from playing a sport growing up.