Game-Changing Talent

Game-Changing Talent

Kurt Wilkin

Yet another article about how hiring athletes can boost your company’s performance

I’m a big fan of team sports and the positive impact that sports can have in the lives of our kids, as well as the impact sports concepts and athletes can have on our businesses. Not only have I written about it several times, but I’m quite sure that most of you have read articles about the value of hiring athletes in the workforce.

Noted business publications such as Inc. and Entrepreneur have written extensively on the topic and even brands like Virgin and obscure special interest groups like the Academy of Fencing Masters have gotten into the act.

You’ll usually see the tried and true attributes like teamwork and competitive drive in these articles. Here, I’ll try to provide some original thoughts about athletes, teamwork, and the workplace.

Jocks vs Nerds?

I’m being asked to write this article about hiring athletes and why it is good for your company. My partner, Chris Carmouche, is offering a “counterpoint” about how hiring nerds will pave the path to profits and prosperity. My response was “does it have to be one or the other”? What if I relate to both jocks and nerds? What if I consider myself a “jerd”?

I was actually a decent athlete in high school and I was in the top 5% academically. In college, I got a little lazy and had too much fun but my GPA was still only two points from a 4.0 (by far one of my favorite lines of all time). Does that make me a jock?

I’m not going to take the bait. I’m not dumb enough to poke the nerd bear. Many of my clients are nerds. And, as Charles Sykes said, “Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them.” To top it off, I’m afraid if I tick off the nerd-o-sphere, Jeff Bezos may disconnect my Amazon Prime, Mark Zuckerberg may take over my Facebook or Steve Jobs’ ghost may drain my iPhone battery!

No. I’m NOT going to preach jocks versus nerds– I’m just going to talk about athletes in the workplace.

Ability to collaborate as a team

I know. I said I wouldn’t talk about teamwork but it is so damn important. There is no “I” in TEAM and there is no place for prima donna, glory-chasers in your company. If you desire a team built to last and built to win, you need your employees working together and teamwork is one of the most valuable lessons sports teach.

On a team, everyone has a job to do and they are expected to do their job well. If one person fumbles the ball, misses a tackle, or strikes out with the bases loaded, the whole team suffers. Conversely, if one player scores a touchdown or turns a double play, the whole team celebrates. A true team wins and loses as a team. Therefore, from the first practice of the season, the importance of working as a team towards a common goal is drilled into an athlete’s head.

This concept of teamwork translates seamlessly into the business world. In a company, every single person has a specific role to play and employees are expected to perform theirs efficiently and successfully. If the sales team doesn’t do their job, the company doesn’t win new business. If the delivery team misses deadlines or drops the ball (pun intended), then customers are going to turn to your competitors. Just like a sports team, companies win and lose together. Athletes are taught from a young age the concept of teamwork and doing their job well, so when they enter the workforce, working with others towards a common goal is second nature.

Goal-Oriented and Resilient

Athletes are goal-oriented, driven, and tenacious, and therefore adept at finding ways to achieve their goals, even if it means hitting a few roadblocks. And since they are used to getting knocked down, they become resilient. Their “eyes on the prize” approach makes them better at seeing the long-term goals and visions of a company and thinking strategically.

Ability to Motivate

While athletes on TV appear to rely on the roar of a crowd to cheer them on, most of them draw their motivation from within. And most of them are master motivators in their own right. Ever seen Tom Brady at the end of a Patriots game? Down by 2 with 30 seconds left? He is calm and cool under pressure and has a special way to motivate his teammates (we’re not going to blame the Super Bowl loss on him!).

We’re not suggesting that Tom Brady is going to walk into your next sales meeting and inspire your team but I will say that successful athletes generally possess a positive energy and ability to motivate the rest of the team.


I also believe that athletes are good at holding each other accountable. In football, everyone has a job to do. On any given play, if one person out of eleven doesn’t do their job, the play breaks down. If one person misses a tackle, the opponent may run for a touchdown. And if you don’t do your job often enough, you’ll soon be on the sidelines (or off the team). Talk about accountability?!?!

Scientific Evidence

Well, maybe not truly scientific…but to a jock, everything in a “study” is rocket science, right?

In a 2014 study, members of Cornell University’s psychology department found that men who participated in varsity-level sports in high school showed higher levels of leadership and had higher-status careers than men who didn’t. Furthermore, after examining a survey of 931 men who played varsity sports and who graduated from high school about 60 years earlier, the researchers found that these participants showed more pro-social behavior and were more inclined to volunteer their time and resources in community and charitable organizations, such as Girl Scouts, Red Cross, and the United Way.

We have a great team at HireBetter. We’ve got our share of nerds, jocks, jerds and everything in between. And you probably have important members of your team who aren’t athletes either. But, as you can tell, I am a big fan and believe that athletes can be an incredible asset to your organization – and perhaps to your company softball team.

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