On the surface, entrepreneurship and sports may not seem that similar. And that’s true – mostly.
Look closer and you’ll see that there is tremendous overlap between sports and entrepreneurship. Both fields require focus, dedication, and persistence. Athletes often talk about the “mental” game, whether it’s strategy, pushing through “the wall,” or mental pep talks. Young entrepreneurs need to practice self-care so they don’t burn out mentally AND physically. As tennis champion and athletic wear CEO Venus Williams said:
“Sport is so much like business. It’s all about strategy. And it’s all about learning from losing. It’s all about setting goals.”
This overlap between sports and entrepreneurship means great business minds can be born from athletes. Since you are a young entrepreneur thinking about college, it’s a safe bet you are on at least one of your school’s sports teams. This means you already have the mentality needed to become a successful entrepreneur!
Becoming successful at your chosen sport (or sports) means learning how to think on your feet. No matter how much you train and prepare, come game time (or race time) you’re going to have to make snap decisions in just nanoseconds. There’s no room for throwing a tantrum or letting yourself get off track. The best athletes are unshakeable under pressure. In fact, they thrive on it. “What happened back there, and how can I prepare to handle it better in the future?”
The same goes for young entrepreneurs. You can’t let yourself have a meltdown every time something goes wrong. Even if you stick to your business plan and have prepared yourself with training and classes, you can’t control outside factors that will affect your business. And that’s ok! Keeping a level head and solving problems with a calm focus is something you’ve already learned in sports. Each challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow.
The word “quitting” is not in your vocabulary. Thoughts of giving up are completely alien in your world. You know that the only true way to fail is to stop trying, and that’s what makes you a winner. This is called persistence, or grit. You didn’t become your school’s swimming champion overnight. Chances are, you started out with more passion than skill. But over time you practiced. You listened to coaches. You probably lost more than a few meets. Sometimes those losses broke your heart because you were so close to winning.
Yet you didn’t quit.
In the world of entrepreneurship, you must learn how to handle rejection. Not every product you make will become the Next Big Thing. Not everyone will want to hire you for the service you’re offering. Investors will turn you down. Because you had the grit to turn yourself into a great athlete, you have the grit to persist in the face of business adversity. You’re already aware that the road to success is long, twisty, and sometimes dark and full of detours. But you won’t give up.
With your eyes on attending college, you already know that your athletics and your grades are equally important parts of your high school career. You are aware of what happens when you don’t spend enough time on either one. Scheduling has become a skill you’ve developed over the years to keep from burning out or missing out.
Athletics requires you to learn how to manage physical training with self-care. No matter how hard you push yourself, you no doubt understand the value of quality sleep, rest days, and stretching. You also know that training involves more than doing your sport. You have to build muscle and stamina so you can perform in peak condition.
Running a business is not that different. You need to learn how to manage your time so that your business can perform at peak levels. This means taking care of yourself first. Rest, physical activity, eating right, and mental breaks are as important as focusing on building your enterprise. Your grandparents may have subscribed to a more Puritanical work ethic. Nowadays we know the value of stepping back to take care of ourselves. Spend time with friends and family. Do something not work-related.
Just as athletes build strength and endurance beyond their sports, entrepreneurs need to build skills beyond running a business. As the CEO of your company, you’ll need to learn things like how to lead a team, how to market yourself, and how to re-invest in your company. Managing your time as a young entrepreneur means making time to focus on the things you need to learn, not just the things that come easy to you.
When you love your sport, you give it your all. You know the ins and outs better than anyone else. You understand the benefits of the sport. The game speaks to you on some non-verbal level that you can feel in your bones. It’s your meditation, your happy place, your safe place. You can’t imagine life without it.
More than that, you probably have friends and family who support you all the way. They cheer for you, motivate you, celebrate your wins and pick you up after your losses.
That passion naturally translates into entrepreneurship. When you love what you do, you’re more likely to see it through. Why stick with something you’re not that into? As you come up with your business ideas, you’ll feel yourself naturally gravitate towards fields that touch your heart and speak to your soul. Working in those fields will give you the same endorphin rush you get from your sport.
The passion you pour into your business will leak out to those around you. By osmosis, your loved ones will want to see you succeed. They’ll root for you, help you, pick you up, and keep you on the right path. Never underestimate the power of your own excitement!
Athletes and entrepreneurs both contain themselves the passion, drive, and determination to achieve success. Use the skills you’ve learned in your high school athletic career to help you become a world-class young entrepreneur!
Are you a Florida-based young entrepreneur looking for a college scholarship? Click here to learn more about how the Kantner Foundation can help you!