Sure, we all know that playing sports helps increase an athlete’s mental and physical health. The benefits of exercise can hardly be overstated. What is often overlooked, however, is the impact that playing sports can have on accelerating a person’s career and leading them to the front of the boardroom. 

Here are two skills that leaders must possess and sports can help teach. 


Imagine watching the World Cup. The game is tied and the clock is rapidly ticking down the seconds until the match is over. Near silence fills the stadium as everyone holds their breath in anticipation. As the ball flies toward the goalkeeper, a gasp overcomes the crowd.

What is he doing?

Peeling off his gear and throwing it to the ground, the keeper starts shouting. “I quit,” he yells. Soon after, he stomps off the field, angry that he has to deal with so much pressure. “You expect me to work so hard! I had a late night and I’m tired and my stomach hurts. I’m going home.”

Of course, this scenario doesn’t ever happen. Why? Because athletes are taught from a young age that they must finish what they start. They must harbor a strong work ethic and be there for the team — pressure, exhaustion, and stomach aches aside. No doubt, this translates well in the workplace. After all, no employer wants his or her staff to hang in the towel just because there’s stress and pressure.

As such, it’s no surprise that a 2014 study by ESPN and EY Women Athletes Business Network identifies the ability to see projects through to completion as the top leadership skill developed through playing sports


It’s easy to feel lonely when you’re a swimmer. In the pool, it can feel like a solitary event. On the block, nerves erupt. In search of the perfect form or the perfect speed, a swimmer has nowhere to look but upon herself. 

She can’t go out to the field where 10 other people await her. She cannot justify her mistakes by pointing a finger at a teammate's missed shot or faulty pass. Instead, she must find her footing internally. Just because she can swim, doesn’t mean it’s easy for her to stay afloat.

Yet it’s important to not mistake this need for internal strength to mean she’s alone. Far from it. A swimmer’s team is there to support her. To cheer her on (loudly) from the edge of the pool. To provide her with a dry towel, to pat her on the back even if her time was lagging, and to remind her why everyone on the team wakes up before sunrise to hop into the cold water.

Being an entrepreneur or leader can feel much the same. Daunting. Lonely. Overwhelming. And yet, if you’re able to find a team within that role, your job becomes infinitely more easy. Which is why companies like Amway emphasize the value of teamwork. They nurture an environment of collaboration driven by a dedication to one another just as much, or more than, each individual’s entrepreneurial journey. It’s also why they fight hard against the mistaken notion that Amway is a scam or pyramid scheme. Instead, they value cooperation over competition and choose to sell products, not recruitment pitches.

While fans may be focused on the trophy raised at the end of a season, an athlete will also look to how it will impact his future. Whether he pursues a career in executive leadership or she branches out as an entrepreneurial maven, one thing is for sure: Their journey through sports helped them with their achievements.