My blog seems to be evolving into a parenting/sports/business blog . . . but that’s okay. I’m amazed at how much we can learn from our kids.
I spend my work days searching out candidates for my clients. Then I coach them through the interview process and coach them through the feedback that I receive. I hear all kinds of stories about why positions are open and why employees were not successful in this particular role at this particular company.
This blog post revolves around this question: “What skills should our kids be learning in sports that will make them successful later in life?”
Yes, the glory of winning is great and fun, but we can also learn from our losses. I have several clients that typically only hire candidates if they played sports in high school or college. There is so much to be learned from sports. Having said that, if you weren’t blessed with the athletic gene, there are other activities (debate, forensic team, band, etc.) where you can garner many of these same skills.
In this post, I’m going to focus on cross country and distance running, but these skills can be learned while participating in just about any sport. And to be completely transparent, I would love to recruit some more girls for this sport, so if you feel like it’s slightly biased towards young ladies . . . that’s because it is.
I was never a distance runner. In fact, during track season, when the distance runners would run for 30 minutes straight, I was in awe that they could do that. “Long distance” to me was the dreaded “quarter-mile.” Even today, I struggle to make it much further than one lap around the ol’ track. I have immense respect for people who can run for miles and hours on end. So what can we learn from these amazing creatures that have the ability to do this?
Here are five lessons that we (and our children) can learn from the sport of cross country:
One thing I’ve learned is that running is a mind game. When I’m out “wogging” and I’m trying to push through my alarm set for four minutes (don’t laugh, I realize how pathetic I am), my mind is definitely pointing out how much my quads hurt and how I can’t breathe. Distance runners have the innate ability to dig deeper and push through their mental blocks to make it happen.
This is a trait that will serve them well in the future. There will be many times when they’ll have to “pull up their big girl panties.” One thing I’ve learned from pushing myself to run for three to four minutes: that’s a goal I set and I accomplished. Running is very measurable, and you can easily set goals and attain them.
Perseverance is a close cousin to mental toughness. It’s the ability to keep going when you want to quit, the ability to get out of bed at 5:30 to make it to 6 a.m. practice, the ability to finish a race when your hip flexor feels like a knife is going through your leg (I witnessed this yesterday), and the ability to get off the ground when your calves are so tight that you literally fall over (I’ve also have witnessed this). You can’t “throw in the towel.” You have to pick yourself up and keep going. Don’t forget: “Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever.” I’m not sure where this quote originated, but I love it.
This is yet another close cousin to #1 and #2. The bottom line with follow-through: you start something and you finish it. Follow-through for a high school runner is making it through the season even though it’s only September 22. If you’re assigned a project at work, but disagree with the boss, you finish it. If you’re going to call your prospect on Thursday, then you call your prospect on Thursday. And by all means, if you say “Let’s do lunch,” really mean it. Follow through and put a time on your calendar.
#4—Standing up for what you believe in
I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of the local girls who run cross country. We live in a town that has an exceptional volleyball team that wins state championships every year. The girls on the cross country team receive a lot of pressure from peers and coaches alike to go out for volleyball. No disrespect to volleyball, but I’m proud of these girls that they continue with the sport they love instead of participating in a sport just because everybody else is doing it. That takes a lot of courage for 12 and 13-year old girls.
Running is a skill you can use later in life. There are charity races literally every weekend of the year. It will be much easier to participate in this sport later in life than in other sports. Trust me, the day will come when you realize that you’re in your 30s and your metabolism has gone on a long sabbatical. Nothing will whip you back into shape like running a few miles. I know many people who have become athletes later in life and have developed a love for running.
Most importantly, are you raising kids who are “coachable”? If you’re raising kids who think they have nothing to learn or have no areas of improvement, I can assure you that they will not last long in the workplace. Honesty and humility about your skill deficiencies are very positive traits. Employers want to hire candidates who want to learn and are teachable.
Cross country—and all sports—have a lot to teach about the workplace and about life in general. Which lessons are you learning . . . and which ones are your children learning?