Last week we sat for our weekly marketing meeting and, in between talking advertising and people, wandered a little of to a realisation that quite a few people from our office used to actively play sports. Seven out of twenty, to be accurate. What we next noticed is how playing sports from an early age on influenced their lives and shaped them into the awesome people they are today — and we wanted to share our experience.
Let me introduce you to the magic 7.
1. Dolores, QA — Handball and football
2. Ines, Account manager — Handball
3. Ivan, Front-end developer — Taekwondo
4. Jelena, QA — Taekwondo
5. Luka, Android dev — Football
6. Mladen, iOS dev — Football
7. Nikolina, QA — Basketball
The most persistent ones are definitely Nikolina, with 18 years in basketball, Luka, with 15 years in football and Ines, with 13 years in handball.
Hiring an athlete, or a former one, should ALWAYS be considered, even if he doesn’t have the acquired working experience. You may ask why. Long story short, because it’s not the same if someone chooses to have zero working experience and if someone just couldn’t find the time for it, due to always being in, e.g., football practice.
Our "research" focuses on that. As mentioned before, seven people actively played sports for a part of their lives. That’s obviously not a huge number, but still, it’s big enough to notice a similar pattern of behaviour between them. By the way, when we say ‘played sports’, we’re not talking about those silly, elementary school activities we’re sure everyone took part in.
No, this time we’re talking about those people that actually played sports for a bigger period of their lives, went to competitions, won medals and completely dedicated a part of their lives to their coaches and teams.
All of them are former athletes though, doing marathons only while watching full seasons of Game of Thrones.
Maybe you’re wondering why is it so important to be an athlete in the world of IT? I mean, the kind of sprints we run here do not even require running shoes. But in all seriousness — being an athlete should be a plus in every job, not just sports.
Just like the captain of a basketball team knows the needs and what’s best for his team, a former captain, now maybe in a completely different field of work, can still recognise if something’s wrong with his teammates or if something’s bothering them.
For example, Nikolina, our QA, knows exactly what and how her team is doing and what issues they’re dealing with — at any time. That’s what 18 years in basketball does to a person. Also, after being a part of a team for so long, you just get a certain bellicosity to fight for others and to provide other teammates bigger things, or salaries (if you’re in charge of that).
When you’re a professional athlete you don’t get a lot of time for mistakes. You have practise two times a day, everyday and you can’t miss out or be late. I remember Ines, our account manager, telling me how she never missed handball practice, even when she was sick or had a test to study for (don’t worry, she finished school in time). That’s why it doesn’t surprise me she is never late for a meeting. Also, she doesn’t like to skip work if she’s sick nor, in general, work from home (ok, maybe three times a year), even though her job allows her to do it from the comfort of her bed.
What do you think, why is being a team player almost always a requirement while hiring? It’s simple, nobody wants a solo player while working in an agile environment. It doesn’t even have to be agile, just an office, with people. Luka, our Android Developer, has this perfect team player quality and knows exactly what it takes to be a part of a team and how to distribute goals and roles — a thing he learned playing football for 15 years. He’s now 24 and retired in football, but still going strong in development.
4. ALWAYS WANTING MORE
I’m sure you’ve seen a professional runner once or twice in your life, at least on tv. If you’ve ever seen one practising, you must’ve noticed how they, after completing one lap of the track, always hype themselves into running another one.
That’s the equivalent of giving your 110% into a project. I know people at our office that will, if a sprint lasts 10, always try to end it in 9 days. Also, if they feel too tired, but there’s still time, I swear they’ll always do one more task from the backlog.
Trusting your teammate during a game is so important — imagine running on the football field, not knowing who you can pass the ball to. But loyalty isn’t just that, it comes in all forms and shapes. Being loyal also means being there for your people, even when you feel like you can’t. Everyone has those days when they’re physically or mentally just not present, but still manage to work. Nikolina would refuse to go home even when she felt so sick she couldn’t sit at her desk; instead, she would put her laptop in her lap and curl up on the couch for the rest of the day — still working. Jelena is the same way.
Another thing playing sports teaches you is respect. Respecting your coach, your teammates and equally important, time. When you’re preparing for a competition, there really isn’t a lot of time to waste, so being on time is a must. And even though nobody mentions it in job adds, being on time (or early) is a big plus while hiring too. You can practically see it in our office too, you already know who are the first ones there.
Every once in a while, someone new joins the team and let’s be honest, it takes them a while to fit in. This goes both for sports and jobs. The important thing is to accept others, encourage them and acknowledge that some take more time than others in overcoming issues.
There must be something elevating in those long hours spent at the gym with your coach yelling at you; or in those ‘nice’ words people shout from the crowd at the game. I hope it doesn’t sound like we’re romanticizing bullying or violence by saying this — ’cause we’re not. It’s obviously not the right way to go but does it help you build character? Abso-fucking-lutely.
Being exposed to comments, complaints and criticism on a daily basis, slowly teaches you to grow thick skin. Eventually, you start seeing those complaints as a positive way of improving yourself. Nobody’s yelling at you because they want you to quit — they’re yelling because they want you to stay. And that’s how you learn to deal with pressure, my friend.
Furthermore, you get used to dealing with injustice. Just like games can be set-up and nothing you do can change the results, similar stuff can happen at your job too. Even when you’re willing to give your everything into a project and invest all of your time, ideas and troubles, the client can still reject you just because, for example, you don’t speak german. What happens next? You either allow it to break your spirit or say Scheiß drauf, it’s their loss. We prefer the second option.
Please don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying non athletes are selfish, lazy or bad employees. We’re just emphasizing that you shouldn’t dismiss hiring someone due to his lack of work experience — especially if he’s a former athlete. Playing sports shouldn’t imply that someone just kicked a ball for a couple of years, but that he’s a hard working, focused team player that doesn’t quit easily.
That’s why, also, no one should hesitate saying they trained basketball for 3 or played volleyball for 7, football for 10 or handball for 15 years.
Just as you would identify a job in sales or waitering as something worth mentioning, seeing someone spent every minute of their free time practising a sport or preparing for a competition should be worthy too. You, as an employer, shouldn’t translate “I played football for six years” into kicking a ball for some time — you should see it as discipline and hard work. Don’t you agree?