SURVEY SAYS: Athletics and Career Skills

We recently covered a survey that suggests participation in athletics during schooling years provides people with various skills that may be needed for success in a job or career.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, did you participate in athletics during your schooling years, and what, if any, skills did it give you for success in your career?

Seventy percent of responding readers indicated they participated in athletics either inside of school or outside of school during their schooling years, while 30% did not.

Asked which skills they believe participation in athletics gave them for success in their careers, a majority (53.2%) selected “ability to work as a team towards common goals,” and nearly half (49%) selected “patience and perseverance.” Nearly 47% indicated participation in athletics helps them strive for individual excellence in a group setting, while more than one-third (34%) said it helps them manage various tasks successfully.

Twenty-three percent of respondents reported they have a disciplined approach to problem solving due to participation in athletics, 21.3% said they are flexible in work situations, and 10.6% indicated they are creative problem solvers. Nearly three in 10 (27.7%) said participating in athletics gave them all of the listed skills, and 8.5% said it gave them none of the listed skills.

Among the one-quarter (25.5%) of responding readers who chose “other,” responses included:

  • Working with difficult people;
  • Following the rules;
  • Juggling time;
  • Keeping successes and failures in perspective;
  • Staying mentally tough when things get difficult;
  • “Knowing when to hand off a job to someone in a better position;” and
  • “Having to do what a bad coach (boss) tells you to do simply because they’re the coach (boss). When to find a new team/job. Finding a sport/job that you enjoy.”


In verbatim comments, a number of responding readers noted that athletics are not the only extracurricular activities that provide skills that can help one be successful in their careers. Others pointed out the social skills in general that group activities can impart. There were a couple of commenters who felt athletes did not learn career skills or carry them into career settings, and one noted that the enforcement of lessons at home is key to carrying skills to career settings. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “The opportunity to showcase your Victory Dance in the workplace: priceless.”

I think we should all come up with a Victory Dance for the workplace.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in our survey!


I never thought that swimming lap after lap after lap in swim practice would do anything to assist in my career success, but much of swimming is an "individual" sport and I strived for individual excellence then as well as now.

I didn't participate in an athletic sport, rather I was a member of the Graniteers Drum and Bugle Corps. Drum and bugle corps promote discipline, team spirit and especially accountability-all attributes that I have found invaluable in my 35 years in the benefits business!

It's all a matter of perspective. The "peaked in high school" Rob Lowe thinks he's successful in business.

Next question should be "Did you participate in the Arts (music, art, dance), and do you believe participation gave you skills for success in a non-Arts career?"

Win humbly and lose graciously, there's no "I" in team (although today there seems to be a noticeable capital "me"), 110% effort and blah-blah-blah. But, really, if I hadn't already learned these at home they'd have never carried over to the field of play, career or beyond.

Emphasis on team versus individual goals.

I played Varsity Basketball in college. It taught me how to set individual goals for myself, Additionally, how to work together in a team setting for a common goal and more importantly how to trust in my team members to do what is required of them.

Girls had no athletic options back in my day unless you consider GAA Bowling an athletic endeavor. But I did participate on the speech and debate teams, and that experience helped me hone public speaking and quick thinking skills that are used daily!

Unless one considers playing in a marching band for two years of high school, no, I did not participate and based on what I've seen of those that did participate in the money makes for the High School and the Colleges, all I can see is a never ending "I'm better than you" from many. Dealing with my 5 sisters (no brothers) and working through high school and college provided the experiences needed for work. My final year in band also taught me that sometimes you just have to leave a program you like if the manager (band director) is someone you cannot deal with. Unluckily I saw too many "stars" on the teams getting away with things. In one of my high schools the star basketball player was also the best known drug pusher. No one was going to do a thing about him. He brought in people to see games. AS you can tell, I don't have much use for most sports. College sports (current NCAA tournament) How many are actually going to graduate and really know how to survive in the real world when they find out they are now the little fish in the big pond.

My observation over the years has been that in addition to the more obvious benefits of learning how to manage time efficiently, work with teammates, and get back up after losses, the students who participate in team sports have more exposure to social skills and interaction with adults -- thanking them for attending a game, making eye contact, and shaking hands. A good first step in getting opportunities and opening doors for a career. It's up to them to follow through with the additional skills and hard work to succeed at that career.

Verbatim (cont.)

There are ways to learn teamwork and leadership other than athletics. I learned everything I needed as a leader of my high school church group, as a leader of my fraternity, and through volunteer activities throughout high school and college.

Being part of the team helped me learn how important it is to fulfill the commitments you make.

I think playing sports was helpful in learning time management and priorities. Sports took up a good amount of time while homework, chores and musical instrument practice still needed to get done.

Endurance because I was a cross country runner

I was on the dance team.

Many of the skills attributed to athletics also apply to music and drama participation.

when you learn early how to work as a team and have discipline you can handle anything as you grow.

To be successful you have to work hard at it, both in sports & life in general

The opportunity to showcase your Victory Dance in the workplace: priceless.

Participating in both team and individual sports has been beneficial for me as a recognize that sometimes it is all up to me and other times I get to pull strength from those around me, both are important in any career.

Many activities that students participate in during their school years foster positive career skills. I am sick of the emphasis we place on sports above activities such as acting, dancing, playing musical instruments etc.

No athletic participation, but other team / club groups which I know provided some of the same benefits in the list above. I don't think it matters what the team gathers to do, just be part of one!

Verbatim (cont.)

I thought you were going to ask which sports we participated in - it would have been very interesting to see where the benefits crowd started out from to end up here!

I think unorganized team sports taught more than the sports organized by adults for us kids. When we played sand lot baseball it was way more fun than the organized games and practices with uniforms. We learned to form equal teams and get along because we all wanted the same thing, to play and to win. The organized sports with parents intervening did not allow us to organize ourselves and govern our own activities. We learned more on the sand lot than the ball diamond.

I agree that athletics can be helpful training for success in work and life. Wish I had had some kind of talent in that area because I would have enjoyed participating. Trust me though, that is not my "calling" and no one would want me on any team!! I am a great fan though!!

I played intra-mural volleyball, basketball, and badminton under the leadership of excellent coaches. Not only did I learn to unselfishly pass the ball and share in team wins but also their coaching style remained with me throughout my career path. My management style has been mostly "coaching" and I've successfully helped to advance careers for many in my team (staff). Thanks to athletics I believe in leading by example.

I don't think this is strictly related to participation in athletics. The same results can come from participation in theater, band, debate team, etc. In fact these groups probably better prepare students for the adult world, as they all have to fight for budget dollars that are freely given to athletics.

If nothing else you gain confidence and are able to communicate with people.

I think there are a lot of other extracurricular activities that can provide skills for career success and not necessarily athletics, especially for those of us who are challenged in the coordination realm.

Competitive people participate in competitive sports. The correlation with success in other arenas may be more a function of the type of person who chooses to compete in sports rather than what they learned from participation. The experience does require the participant to learn time management and, for team sports, one learns that having the right coach (planning, mentoring), teammates (recruiting), training and teamwork are a winning formula.

4 years of football under a coach who taught lessons that could be applied in real life, making a hard decision (right or wrong) instead of doing nothing and having it made for you, perseverance in the face of adversity, etc. Although he is passed away, and I have been working for 40 years, I can still hear him say "the tough get going when the going gets tough."

My activities were in the music arena, which studies also show has many benefits.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.