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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Start kids early with sports

When I review a resume and come across something about sports it often peeks my interest in that candidate.  Additionally, I find it more appealing to read that the candidate's team (whatever the sport) won the divisional championship rather than reading about how the candidate was MVP three years in a row.  The first achievement is truly a team or organizational success that obviously required that the candidate cooperate with more than one person.  This kind of teamwork is something that every company will be looking for in a new graduate. The latter, while impressive, tells me nothing about his or her ability to work well with the team.  A classic baseball example is the batter who swings for the fences to improve his batting average or home run numbers (even though the odds are he will get an out) rather than taking a few pitches for a walk which might have a higher probability of contributing to a win.

In sports like football, soccer and hockey to name a few, our kids will need to learn plays, follow instructions and execute precisely.  As viewed by a potential employer, these are the attributes of a dream employee.  One who listens, learns and does his or hear job correctly!

It is best if the sport on the resume is at the college level.  A high school athlete with nothing in college may be perceived as someone who peaked early in life and is now declining or has lost their drive.  The famous example being Al Bundy from the Married With Children sitcom.  Al was the high school football star and was never quite able to achieve anything afterwards.  In order to get to the college level in a sport though, our kids will need to start young and at some point should probably narrow their interests to one or two sports they can focus on.  Not all of our kids will grow up to be like Bo Jackson with a pro career in the NFL and Major League baseball.

This article began with a focus on team sports but as it developed, more and more of the benefits of any physical sport for our kids became clear.

Team sports can help to build confidence through a sense of belonging but any sport can be a fun activity that we as parents can do with our kids.  Each time we have a chance to interact positively with our children it will help them to feel more loved and therefore more secure and willing to take the necessary risks they will all face in life.  By playing a sport (or doing anything for that matter) over a reasonably long period of time, our kids will see the results of hard work.  The fast ball they could not even touch with the bat a year ago is now a line drive over the pitcher's head.  The knowledge that if my daughter puts the time and effort into something she can succeed is an invaluable lesson.

Physical fitness is a huge benefit of playing a sport regularly and one that parents of kids in many developed countries need to think about.  With the size of portions consumed by our kids and the amount of sugar in almost anything they drink, it should be mandatory for them to get out and run every day.  On top of the obvious health benefits, employers generally like good looking, fit applicants.  Rightly or wrongly, most will assume that if my child is out of shape then he or she lacks discipline.  Individual sports like tennis or golf in particular can indicate discipline and a self-starter attitude.  When your son is out there on the tennis court facing down a killer serve, he is all alone and needs to find his own motivation.

Running, especially distance running, has a definite appeal in business.  A friend working at a well known chain of restaurants told me a story about how his CEO became a marathoner later in life.  Since then the CEO has often compared running a marathon to running a business.  Both require, preparation, persistence, motivation and the ability to pace yourself.  On a resume, a young runner will be thought to have all of these qualities.

Learning about sportsmanship, the drive to win, losing gracefully are additional qualities that will help our kids well beyond the needs of a job search.  So grab your mitt/skates/sneakers/racket/whatever and head out with your kids.  Chances are we parents could use a bit of exercise as well.

1 comment:

  1. "Her conclusion: A 10 percentage-point rise in girls’ participation in high school sports leads to a 1 percentage point increase in female college attendance and a 1 to 2 percentage point increase in female labor-force participation."

    The quote above is from Wharton Economist Betsey Stevenson as presented in the Wall Street Journal. Yet another good reason to get our kids involved in sports!

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