Basketball has been a major part of my life since I started playing at age seven. It is my passion, and I recognise that it has contributed greatly to different aspects of my life since childhood.
While sports may not hold such an important place in the lives of everyone, I believe that people at all stages of life can enjoy a myriad of its benefits.
Youth sports fosters leadership qualities in children as it tends to build initiative, teamwork skills, and the ability to regulate emotions. Children may also develop increased self-confidence and a competitive nature (Psychology Today).
I come from a family of athletes, and have played basketball, football and volleyball with and learned from great coaches and athletes who have gone on to be internationally-acclaimed players in teams like Fenerbahçe and Besiktas.
In sports, I find that leadership takes on many forms – whether it comes from someone who inspires a child to take up a new sport, or from team leaders motivating their players in a tough game, or from someone who has loved sports all his life that he has dedicated his life and career to creating an environment for others to excel.
Having learnt from Coach Ziya Karaevli and Aydin Gürel, district director of Youth Services and Sports, Istanbul, Turkey, I would like to share with you some of the essential elements of becoming the best in what you do.
Follow your dream and never give up. When I was about 13 years old, I regularly played football with my distant cousin Musa Büyük. Musa had a dream, and a strong belief in himself. He trained hard for years – every day working on his own or with coaches to improve his skill.
Many people did not take him seriously and said he was just a small village boy, but he persevered. The day came when he was chosen by Trabzonspor, one of the top teams of the Turkish Süper Lig (Super League) which is one of the top leagues in UEFA. Till today, he is an accomplished professional football player.
Motivation is a powerful force. In an Academy of Management Learning & Education article, Mike Krzyzewski, who coached the Duke Men’s basketball team for 31 years and was head coach of the United States National Men’s Basketball team shared a story of the time he coached the Olympic team.
Kobe Bryant told his youngest daughter: “Since I was in high school, nobody has tried to motivate me, they just pay me. But,” he said, “your dad and his staff try to motivate us every day, and that’s so refreshing.” Performance is not possible without motivation as it helps to build confidence.
While you have yet to become the best, persevere to improve your performance and learn to be professional in conduct. Good or bad, win or lose, focus on your role and keep playing with your team.
By being a better sportsperson, develop a healthy self-awareness of your capabilities and accept responsibility for failure if and when it happens.
I have seen young people derail their own dreams by not managing their knee-jerk reaction to failure. Respect others. The more willing you are to learn, the more others are willing to teach.
It all boils down to hard work and discipline. I observed how Coach Karaevli, a much sought after basketball coach in Turkey, maintained his own self-discipline and approached his work.
In turn, he taught his students how to establish their own goals and inspired them to strive to perform without deviation or distraction.
Looking beyond the need to build endurance, strength, speed, skill and physical strength, an essential element on the road to success is the ability to work as a team by developing personal discipline, collective thinking, team spirit and a sense of responsibility.
The team is one unit, no longer individual players, and must work together to achieve its goals.
Team sports like basketball teach us important life skills which can also translate into business life. In whatever career we choose, we need to understand people, establish friendships, motivate others and work together.
Everybody has a role to play in their job. There might be a basketball play or strategy – like a business plan – which every team member must execute on.
Based on a study conducted by the University of South Carolina and Pennsylvania State University with data from 9,700 high school students, Professor Matthew Irvin said that team sport is significantly related to better academic results and a higher likelihood of enrolling in university.
“Sport allows you to develop a mentoring relationship with adults and with positive, school-oriented peers. They help socialise you into being more focused on school, and may help develop time-management skills, initiative and an ability to work with others,” Professor Irvin says.
Life lessons from team sports
1. Trust and teamwork:
Some invaluable lessons can be learned from team sports, such as the interdependence we have on one another and that the whole really is more than the sum of its parts.
In a team, you learn to trust others and yourself. There have been numerous occasions when I have seen teammates falling short of their role in the team.
When executing a basketball play for example, everyone must trust that the other is executing the play according to plan. Dropping the ball (figuratively and literally!) impacts everyone on the team.
In a supply chain example, parties deploying each step in the process must work together, understand individual roles and trust that the preceding step has been executed well.
Playing basketball, football, volleyball or any team sport teaches us that the game is not all about just one person excelling.
Working together and waiting for the best scoring opportunity also teaches us patience and the willingness to give up personal glory by allowing another player to take the shot.
In the workplace, ‘sportsmanship’ has been defined as a willingness or tolerance of the employee for less-than-ideal organisational circumstances or changes.
Communication is vital, and vividly so, especially in games where players meet each other minutes before it starts or where there is some big shakeup with new players coming onboard.
It is evident that effective communication is vital to the success of any endeavour involving two or more parties, and has been discussed at great length in the context of business and organisations.
Communication at the workplace would benefit when seen through the lens of a strong sense of unity in vision and goals as with players of team sports.
Team sports help you to better observe your own strengths and weaknesses, and how they fit within the team.
Assessment tools help us develop an understanding and self-awareness of our strengths and weaknesses in the workplace, and what role we might play in a team or on projects.
Basketball pushes our personal limitations, e.g. learning to dribble left-handed or shooting with the left hand in order to outmanoeuvre opponents.
Expose yourself to other areas to keep actively learning, as natural leadership happens around you all the time.
“I’m going against the best coaches internationally. They think differently. One’s not right and one’s not wrong. They think differently and it forces you to think differently. I believe that you have to do that if you want to constantly get better in leadership.”
As a leader, learn continuously and create your own atmosphere conducive for success, and then bring that atmosphere to the workplace.
President Barack Obama was quoted as saying,
“One of the big unifiers in this country (United States) is sports”.
This is true in my country Turkey and I see it in Malaysia as well. Sports also connects generations. I believe there are two takeaway messages:
· Coaching and learning in the context of sports see a split between techniques used to train an athlete’s body, and techniques to train an athlete’s mind. Team sports nurture self-confidence, perseverance, courage and integrity. We can take the lessons learnt from sports and apply them to work and our lives in general.
· Having a common love of sports opened up a doorway for me to connect with and learn from family members. It certainly connected me with many new friends in Malaysia, and with it a great opportunity to learn from diverse people.
Nedim Karaevli is the liaison officer at an international school in Malaysia and looks forward to catching up with basketball, football and volleyball players everywhere. To read more articles like this, click here.