When you have excellent work ethic, it shows in almost everything you do. As any other full scholarship athlete will tell you, the pressures that go along with being a collegiate athlete are numerous, but it’s all about balance and perspective. In essence, you are being paid to work a full time job while attending college.
The Life of a Scholarship Athlete
As a cross country runner and as a middle-distance track runner, it meant waking up in time for 5:30am workouts during the warm weather months. It meant staying at school or cutting your college breaks in half because of training schedules or meets. It meant having an early morning workout before your 8am class, going through a full day of classes, and then coming back at 4pm just in time for another workout before heading off to the dining hall for dinner (and potentially continuing on to an evening class).
It meant having the discipline to not only attend all of your classes (the coaches would sometimes check in with the professors to make sure that you were showing up), but it also meant doing well in those classes because you had a lot riding on your grades. If you didn’t perform well in classes, you wouldn’t be allowed to compete. If you couldn’t compete, you risked losing your scholarship funding.
There were races on the weekends, most of the time out-of-state – sometimes across the country. The coaches would hand out printed, official notices, which you’d give to your professors, letting them know that you’d be missing class to represent the college at whichever meet, wherever it was. We’d pack up our books and bring our studies with us on the go. Then there was the obvious pressure to perform well once it came down to putting on that uniform and hitting the track or cross country course.
As a member of a Division 1 cross country and track team that was nationally ranked as one of the Top 10 programs in the nation at the time, there was little margin for error. You trained hard, studied hard, and someone else was paying for it all and watching to see whether you’d be able to deliver. To the coaches and to your college, you were an investment, an asset.
It’s not terribly different from working for a company though, now is it?
Endurance Athletes in the Workplace
In the workplace, I firmly believe that endurance athletes make some of the best employees and business leaders out there. They not only know what hard work is; they truly understand what ‘hard work’ means because they’ve lived it.
Back in high school, I couldn’t fully appreciate it when the floodgates opened, and the phone at my parents’ house wouldn’t stop ringing with college coaches falling over themselves with scholarship offers. There were boxes and boxes of program letters that my father insisted I save, and I received mail – both at school and at home. There were newspaper articles and interviews with journalists, medals and trophies – and none of it really phased me. Quite frankly, I thought it was a little weird that someone would want to offer me money to come to their school just so I could continue to do what I enjoyed at the time: running. It didn’t feel like work to me when I was in high school. I never ‘tried’ to land a scholarship; I just had fun competing.
Looking back, I can appreciate the raw talent that was partially responsible for allowing me to choose where I wanted to attend college. However, an equally huge part of what helped to shape me into who I was back then as well as who I am today is how I was raised- the values that were instilled in me and the discipline that my parents mandated at home. These values really helped me transition into the world of collegiate sports, competition and the workplace.
Attributes that Endurance Athletes Share as Employees and Industry Leaders
Below are some of the many attributes that make endurance athletes top-notch employees (and employers):
College athletes know what it means to be committed to training, to attending classes and to performing at a high level. In the workplace, this same level of commitment can be seen in the sorts of projects and assignments that we take on as well as our determination to see a task through from beginning to completion.
Being a full time athlete and student means making sacrifices, whether it’s skipping a night out with friends to study so that you can do well on a test or whether it’s skipping a night out so that you can get to bed early for an intense workout the next day. Discipline is difficult at times, but it’s rewarding. In the workplace, endurance athletes have the experience of long hours of training and what it means to stay focused so that things can get done. Deadlines have to be met; projects have to be properly planned out and implemented, and all of this requires discipline.
Athletes know the consequences of cheating. When you’re an endurance athlete, you can’t really fake ability. Especially when you are part of a cross country team, how you perform as a team during the race depends on the other six members. Therefore, you want to be sure that when you’re not racing, you’re staying out of trouble and making wise decisions to help ensure your success as a whole. In the workplace, you will sometimes be presented with questionable situations. However, most endurance athletes’ training reinforces positive work ethic ideals.
Endurance athletes are often critical thinkers. In training, if something isn’t working, they don’t just give up; they try to find alternative solutions. In the workplace, things don’t always go as planned, and endurance athletes are great at switching gears to try something new.
While there is plenty of solo time during training sessions and races, endurance athletes understand what it means to be part of a team. We realize that there may be creative differences between us, but we also realize that we need to work together to achieve championships. In the workplace, you may not like all of your coworkers and associates, but you have to know how to get along with everyone to complete tasks and keep things running smoothly.
Endurance athletes are some of the best cheerleaders. They know what it is like to endure hours of training, stress and performance expectations. They have had encouragement through it all from those who trained with them as well as from spectators. In the workplace, encouragement can be empowering, and endurance athletes know how to deliver.
Competition within yourself as well as with others can sometimes help you to push beyond your comfort zone. It is this competitive nature that can help us grow and develop. In the workplace, healthy competition is never a bad thing. Endurance athletes know how to challenge themselves to achieve new goals.