January 10, 2017 Heather James

College Athletes in the ‘Real World’: What Lacrosse Taught me about Work Ethic, Leadership and Accepting Challenges

College Athletes in the ‘Real World’

By Annie Spewak, TVG Intern

Up until a year ago, my life revolved around lacrosse. My dedication to the game often dictated everything I did from my social life to my class schedule, but it also earned me a scholarship to play Division I in college. Over the years, I’ve encountered people who think sports are rather useless; after all, most athletes will never go professional, and will never earn a paycheck playing the sport.So, why invest all that time, energy and money into something so fleeting? The answer is simple: for most athletes, sports are about hard work, dedication, teamwork, passion and commitment. Not paychecks. Sports also have the unique ability to instill valuable characteristics in athletes that are applicable to life, the workplace, and beyond.

My lacrosse experience presented me with numerous opportunities and introduced me to some incredible people. The game gave me confidence and the ability to work with a team. While my athletic career was cut short by a serious injury, I often think about the things I learned while playing the game that resonate on a daily basis: resilience, leadership, and hard work. These lessons have helped prepare me to graduate from college and enter the daunting “real world.”

Sports can be heartbreaking, at times. My experience playing lacrosse was no different. There were tough losses, painful injuries, bad practices and difficult coaches. But, with each obstacle and setback, I learned to rise up and get stronger. This kind of resilience is invaluable not only to athletes, but to everyone. After my injury, I was forced to face the prospect of never playing again. I rehabbed for nine months before I was strong enough to get back on the field. Rehab was excruciating, both mentally and physically, but I pushed myself through it. Although I was a different kind of player after surgery, I found that I was successful in playing a new position on the field. I adapted. I learned how to bounce back from tough situations and obstacles, as well as how to adapt and change to any environment.

I’ve had a lot of coaches over the years, too – some good, and some who were pretty awful. Experiencing different coaching styles taught me a lot about leadership—especially how to lead by example, motivating others through encouragement, the importance of transparency and honesty, and allowing your actions to positively influence and impact someone else.

Lacrosse also taught me a lot about work ethic. I learned that what I put into the sport, I got out of it. The hours of training I put in made me a better player, which ultimately meant increased time on the field and scholarships. Similarly, in the professional world, it’s not about who is the smartest or quickest. It’s about who shows up every single day ready to work harder than the person next to them.

As my time in college draws to a close, I’m eager to enter the workforce, armed with the life skills I’ve learned through lacrosse. I know that I’ll be faced with situations in my work life that will test my resilience, leadership style and work ethic. Sports are not forever, and many times, they are just a game. But I feel like my time as an athlete has shaped me into a better person off the field. One who can be a productive and positive influence in both society and the workplace.


Did you play a college sport? What made it memorable to you? Contact us via our website to let us know!



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