Career Advice You Learn On the Court

by Jack Cullen on June 8, 2016

the basketball court teaches career lessonsOver the years, I’ve found that the lessons I’ve learned outside of the office are just important as the ones I’ve learned in it. I’ll find myself struggling to deal with a problem, only to remember something seemingly unrelated from years ago that helps me find the solution.

Basketball has always been one of my favorite sports to play and watch. I’m struck by how many of the lessons I learned on the court have translated into lessons I can use in work and in life.

This is some of the best career advice I learned on the court.

Make the Extra Pass

One thing that makes the San Antonio Spurs so successful is their selfless play. In a game where some star players play hero ball, the Spurs excel at ball movement and teamwork. Making the extra pass means passing up your good shot so that your teammate can take a great shot instead, and the Spurs always look to make the extra pass no matter who gets the shot at the end.

At work, it can be tempting to take the hero ball approach. I’ve seen employees – great employees, even – who say yes to every project and refuse help because they think it will cement them as an integral part of the team. But eventually these employees burn out, or they put so much on their plate that the quality of their work suffers. The employees who make the extra pass, the ones who collaborate with their coworkers to find the best solution as a team, those are the employees who can really make a difference.

At the same time, being a good teammate is a two-way street. You want to be the employee who’s in the right position to catch their coworker’s pass. Take an interest in what your coworkers are doing, be available to collaborate and troubleshoot when needed, and you can be sure they’ll be standing in the right spot the next time you need to make a pass.

Guard the Player, Not the Ball

When teaching defense, one of the first things a coach tells his team is to watch the body of the player they’re guarding, not the ball. The ball can be distracting, it can fool you into jumping one way before crossing you over the other, but the body will always tell you exactly where your opponent is going to go.

In other words, learn how to prioritize your focus. I’ve seen workers who freeze when multiple items need their attention, or they’ll spend too much time spinning their wheels on one small part of an assignment while the overall task suffers.

When faced with these situations, pause and ask yourself what success will look like, break down the steps that will take you there, then focus on accomplishing one task at a time. Resist the urge to guard the ball – the small distractions that leave you jumping from one thing to the next while never getting closer to your goal. Focus on the larger goal and the steps that will lead you to success, you’ll never get crossed over.

career advice from the basketball court

Box Out

Rebounds are a hustle stat, and grabbing a rebound usually comes down to which player wants it more. When you box out, you’re putting your body between your opponent and the ball – fighting for every inch of space to get that rebound.

Anyone who has played basketball can tell you that boxing out is one of the most important things a coach looks for. Why? Because coaches value hustle and effort above everything else.

In work and in life, we want to be the type of person who boxes out – the type that puts in the extra effort even when the work isn’t glamorous. That’s the type of employee who becomes critical to a company’s success, and you can be certain that your boss will look to you as the rock they need in crunch time.

Be Ready

One of the most important roles on any good basketball team, is that of the player who comes off the bench. Whether that is to give one of the starters a rest or because the team needs a spark, the importance of a strong bench is critical to any team that wants to compete for a championship. Being ready at all times is critical.

Will you be ready when called upon by your supervisor to step up when the time is needed? The extra effort that you put in each and every day will get you ready when that call comes for you to become a key contributor to your office team. All good players believe in the importance of the 5 P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performances. The 5 P’s are a tool that will help you become a superstar in your chosen career.

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