Countless articles and studies have been conducted regarding the connection between the worlds of sport and business. What I would like to emphasize is my personal experience in this broad topic. Sport is seen as character building but also promotes values like hard work, self-discipline, initiative, leadership, cooperative behavior and the desire for success and goal achievement.
I decided to write this blog now during an early point of my career. This topic occupies me every single day at the office, I am trying to implement these values which have been instilled in me since I started playing basketball at the age of six.
I am currently working in Microsoft as a Sales Desk Associate (B2B) which is part of the sales organization. In addition to my work at Microsoft I teach MBA students sports management at EU Business School in Munich. Before I arrived in Germany to pursue my master’s degree, I was a professional basketball player in the second league in Israel where I played for eight years. Since I started working, I have noticed a clear link between sport and business.
Like all students, I finished my bachelor’s and master’s studies with a head full of theories about management, marketing, leadership and other topics of the business world before realizing that there is a huge difference between the real world and the theory. I would like to point out each one of the skills I think a person should have in order to pursue a career in management, regardless of whether it’s in a multinational IT company or a small family business. These skills can be developed while playing professional or amateur sport and are highly important when you want to manage people and work as a manager in an international organization.
Self-discipline, hard work, consistency and the desire for success and goal achievement
The first two skills I learnt when I started to play basketball were: self-discipline and hard work. In any sport, whether it’s tennis, football or light athletics, self-disciple and hard work are the common values any coach will attempt to instill in his players in the early stages of their career. Self-discipline and hard work for me meant spending three to four hours every day at the gym, including weekends and holidays. My coach used to say “a player must train not only during the regular practice hours (which were one-and-a-half hours) but also alone”. To improve the individual aspects of my game, my coach used to tell me which aspects I should improve and I worked alone or with my father at the gym. It was not easy to work on the weaknesses. The results mostly came a few weeks or months later. My self-discipline and dedication were tested constantly. I must admit that if I hadn’t liked playing basketball I would not have put in so much effort; however, luckily I did like it and I had passion for the game. This is why I think that it is essential to choose the right place to work, because if I find my work interesting and challenging I will be passionate about it. If I don’t not like my work it will be almost impossible to go the extra mile.
The effects of these two skills I began to develop at the age of six were also evident off the court. Every time I needed to study for an exam or to do my homework I told myself that if I can spend three to four hours at the gym I can also prepare for an exam which takes much less time. Laziness and giving up are words that are unfamiliar to me thanks to basketball. In addition to hard work and self-discipline it is important to be consistent. In basketball or any other sport if a player is not consistent he or she will not accomplish anything. I have been told that if you work hard you must be consistent, and that’s what I did. Every single day I practiced, and if my team didn’t have a practice scheduled I used to practice with the older team. That’s also true of working at Microsoft. Working hard every single day is required. Inconsistent employees never get promoted. They work hard one month and then are less productive during the following months. Managers notice that and take it into consideration when they evaluate employees.
What I learned playing basketball was easy to implement at Microsoft since it became part of my character. Hard work and self-discipline are core values at any organization, particularly on an international level like Microsoft. Employees are expected to work hard because of the competitive environment and the amount of applications to every position – sometimes a single role would receive applications in the 100s. In addition, employees are expected to be disciplined because of the flexible hours environment in which each employee has the “freedom” to choose when he or she is working. Without self-discipline it is impossible to succeed.
Additionally, I learned in sport how to succeed and systematically achieve my goals, and these skills are also very relevant in the world of business. My goal was to become a professional basketball player. In order to achieve that goal I knew that I had to continue to improve and work hard. I also have a goal in the workplace. I would like to become a manager. That’s my long-term goal and my managers also know that. I find it beneficial to share my plans with my managers, because that’s how they can know and help me become one. It is easier for me to focus on my goal and to receive advice from more experienced people on how I can become one. Some good advice my manager told me once is to have a short-term goals to achieve on the path to my main one. This reminded me of when I was young and I agreed together with my coach on a “goal of the season”. Each season I had a goal to achieve. For example: by the age of 12 wining the region championship and improving my technical basketball skills.
Today, at Microsoft I am the coordinator of a small team. We work on projects in order to get experience in managing and achieving targets. The desire for success and goal achievement are skills everyone should have and I am happy to have them.
In my next blog I will share my experience about the topic leadership.
 Rigauer, B. (1981). Sport and Work. Colombia: Colombia University Press.