Why I Like Working with Athletes

My nine-year old daughter had a softball game earlier this week. She pitched the first inning for her team, and while her control wasn’t her best, she also wasn’t getting any help from the umpire. Coaches from both sides shook their heads as the 15-year old umpire called several pitches down the middle as balls.

Since she’s nine and some of the pitches were clearly strikes, she was upset. After the third walk of the inning, I walked out to the mound, was careful to position myself so the umpire couldn’t see her face and let her vent her frustration for 30 seconds.

After the 30 seconds were up, I explained to her that she couldn’t control the umpire. She couldn’t influence his calls. All she could do was to throw her game.

She gave up four runs in her worst outing of the year, but she learned, what I hope, was a valuable life lesson in the process.

When I consider the type of people I want to work with on our team, I gravitate towards former athletes. This is not because I like to talk sports (I do) or because I am a health-freak (I am not).

I like athletes because they know how to fail.

They also know that it’s temporary.

Babe Ruth not only set the career record for home runs, but also for strikeouts. Mariano Rivera saved more games than anyone else in the history of baseball, but also blew saves in the postseason, including one in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots in his career.

If you are an amazing corporate real estate broker, you win more than you lose. But you still lose. No one makes every deal or wins every pitch. However, in my opinion, it’s how you deal with that adversity that will dictate your ultimate success. Will you let it get you down? Or will you learn from it and bounce back stronger than before?

I understand that my daughter is only nine-years old and that the life’s lesson may have been lost upon her. However, I believe that it’s my job as her coach and her parent not to blame the umpire. Everything in life can’t be explained away as someone else’s fault. I wouldn’t let her blame the umpire the same way I wouldn’t have allowed her to blame her teammates if errors had happened in the field behind her.

Her job last night was to pitch the ball. The umpire’s job was to call the game. If he wasn’t doing his job correctly, it didn’t mean that she should stop doing hers.

Maybe twenty years from now, she will need a reminder about losing and bouncing back or how it’s imperative to keep doing her job despite perceived incompetence around us. Or maybe twenty days from now, I will need that reminder. We win and lose countless times every day in life and in business. Some things we can control; some we can’t.

I know how to win and I know how to lose. If I can teach my kids the same thing, it will be one of the best lessons I can give them.