Sports have always served as an apt metaphor for life. Likewise, lessons learned on the fields, courts and athletic training rooms often inspire the business world.
Melding those concepts, the Goldey-Beacom College Doctor of Business Administration Program and its Entrepreneurship Club sponsored a TEDx Salon on sports psychology. GBC sponsors these small sessions bi-monthly to keep the community engaged between regular TEDx events while delving deeply into specific topics and invigorating the Delaware business and entrepreneurial ecosystem.
So, what do sports psychology concepts have to offer the greater Delaware business community? Entrepreneur Ryan Drummond believes the two worlds have plenty of overlap. His speech, “Unlocking the Collective Power of Athletes to Solve Real World Challenges” highlighted the ways in which businesses can harness the determination and vision of former elite athletes to help their organizations meet and further raise industry goals.
On the flip side, Drummond explained how elite athletes can convert the passion they felt about their chosen sport into new career paths and opportunities. Drummond himself is an example of such a transformation. He went from being a University of Delaware lacrosse co-captain to starting his own company, The Athlete Book, which uses gamification to help college athletes explore employers virtually.
Dr. Joel Fish
Philadelphia sports psychologist Joel Fish recounted working with professional athletes to improve their mental game. His four-step process of identifying attitudes about winning, pinpointing stressors or challenges, coming up with strategies to counter the stress and evaluating and regrouping gives athletes a mental edge from the playing fields to non-sports situations.
Jeremy Benoit, assistant athletic director at Goldey-Beacom, presented “The Difficult Conversation: A Necessity for Growth.” Benoit advocates for better communications to improve relationships within teams or athletic programs. His advice on being intentional with meeting environments and understanding different communication styles applies to boardroom meetings and even those conversations taking place over the dinner table.
Scott Mosier, athletic director and soccer coach at Salesianum High School, opened with the question, “What do we want our kids to gain from playing sports?” Answers included socialization, functioning within a team, experiencing adversity, and having fun. Then, referencing the current atmosphere of highly competitive youth sports leagues, Mosier raised a bigger question: What are kids actually getting from sports? Depression, he answered, is being experienced by student-athletes at rates higher than the general population.
Considering sports to be a training ground for future life endeavors, Mosier suggested that youth sports – just as business – should reframe failure as opportunity. He invoked Michael Jordan, who was never more motivated to improve than when he lost. Jordan, he said, invited failure, and it became his best teacher.
Three of Goldey-Beacom’s student-athletes also spoke. Jono Hooper, cross-country/track and field from Brisbane, Australia, gave his perspective of life for international college athletes. Kiera Young, soccer, gave voice to the added challenges of depression and anxiety on a college athlete. Tre Prescott, former cross-country runner and a GBC graduate, emphasized the function that sports play in becoming self-aware.
“Sports tell the truth,” Prescott said. “If you are consistently missing shots from the free-throw line, you need to work on your free throws.”
Dr. Dan Young, organizer of the TEDx event and director of the Doctor of Business Administration Program, expressed pride in the students and athletic programs at Goldey-Beacom. That is one of the reasons he chose to focus on sports psychology for this salon.
“Goldey-Beacom is known throughout the Mid-Atlantic region as a powerhouse in Division II athletics,” he said. “A relatively large part of our student population not only participate in athletics, but also have high GPAs and devote their time to other clubs and community service. This is in addition to working a part-time job, which a majority of the students do. My belief is that this level of grit, discipline and maturity coalesces with the lessons that athletics teach us. It is for those reasons that it created a perfect synergy with TEDx.”
The event’s closing speaker was a three-time Olympic gold medalist: soccer player Heather Mitts. She discussed her GOLD Medal Mindset formula for success, which is just as applicable to business and life as it is to sports: Give yourself permission to achieve your goals; Own your identity; Learn to control what you can control; and Don’t stop until you are successful. She also shared the story of her comeback after a career-halting torn ACL. Following grueling months of surgery, therapy, rehabilitation and training, Mitts rebounded from her injury and went on to help the U.S. Women’s National Team win two more gold medals in soccer at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
Fittingly, her words – which concluded Goldey-Beacom’s final TEDx Salon of 2020 – came down to a lesson in resilience. With so many of this area employees, small businesses, larger corporations, schools and universities seeking insight to help then weather the COVID-19 storm, her message was a welcome one.
“Grit and resilience are the secret sauce that help you to go from a world-class athlete to a world-class champion,” Mitts said. “It is amazing what our brains and bodies are capable of when belief supersedes doubt and love of self conquers fear of trying.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the TedxSalon was limited to a small audience. The event was recorded, though, and the talks may be viewed using the links embedded above.