INSIGHTS

The latest insights into Athlete Career Development, Transitioning and Employer Engagement from the Expert Athlete Career Transition team.

Teamwork skills can transform the athlete transition - here’s how.

In our latest insight, we discussed teams, trust and conflict resolution. Exploring the importance of effective and well-structured teams, we ventured into how collaborative communication was a critical asset both in sport and in business.



Of course, we already know that workplaces thrive when good teams work together - it’s a simple theory; put together a collective of minds, knowledge and opinion and great things happen. With this in mind, it can be expected that individuals who demonstrate a strength and ability perform well within teams are desirable candidates for almost any corporate role.


Similarly, teamwork skills are profoundly sought after in sport. Without the infrastructure of effective teamworking capabilities, a whole myriad of athletic sport wouldn’t exist. Football, rugby, rowing, basketball, sailing, swimming, hockey and so many more all have teams at the very core of their existence. In all cases, those teams are specifically structured and built to encompass a range of abilities, strengths and performance attributes. No one individual within any sporting team is more important than another, they simply come together to become an unstoppable driving force.


Transitioning from sport can be an intense and challenging experience. Many athletes step away from the all-consuming role of being a renowned sporting professional, feeling anxious of what may lay ahead in the future. An unconventional resume features little in the way of workplace experience, with academic accomplishments scattered inbetween a prodigious amount of sporting accolades. It’s not uncommon for a retiring athlete to question what transferrable skills they can bring with them into the corporate working landscape, although a period of soul-searching and life-mapping will often lead them to discovering they can in fact, demonstrate a depth of valuable experience. Perhaps one of the most valued contributions a professional athlete can bring to a workplace, is their intellectual and deep-seated ability to truly understand the importance of teamwork.


Research suggests that at least 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as a very important business asset, whilst 97% of employees and Senior Executives believe a lack of alignment within a team can impact the outcome of a task or project.

However, cultivating a functional high-performance team is not simply about selecting specific individual strengths and bringing them together. The real golden ticket to success here is the election of people who can clearly understand how teams work and effectuate action; and this is precisely where professional athletes can demonstrate a profound ability.


Good teamworking skills will undoubtedly strengthen transition for retiring professional athletes. Whichever sector or industry is pursued following their departure from sport, it is likely the role will require an element of teamwork. Athletes have an unrivalled chance at success. Unlike many other potential candidates, athletes have not just learned teambuilding skills - they’ve expertly refined them and have practiced them. They’ve invested time, passion and energy into driving a team to victory. Teambuilding isn’t a resume advantage for athletes but instead an intrinsic core value ingrained deeply in their character and personality.


With this comes the exceptional ability to effectively communicate. Athletes recognise that effective communication means incredible results. It fosters an environment where each team player fully understands another, along with being able to gain a concise understanding of role, responsibility and objective. Good communication opens the pathway for team culture and chemistry, another incredibly important asset behind some of the world’s most renowned and leading organisations.

An athlete’s experience of leadership will also help steer the ship through transition. Athletes have seen and practiced leadership throughout their entire careers. They understand which leadership strategies are effective and which ones just simply don’t work. They’ve developed their own leadership skills through relentless practice, and they’ve allowed themselves to be led by those they consider role models within their chosen sport. Humble in its truest form, athletes can also recognise that leading from the top isn’t always the best principle for success and that any team member has the ability and freedom to inspire their team and the people around them.


Business leaders, CEOs and decision makers more than ever, are focusing their recruitment efforts into searching and selecting candidates who can demonstrate strong workplace skills. Often, academic achievements are not as highly sought after as is the ability to work to an organisation’s core values. For athletes, it is critical to remember the transferrable skills they have developed throughout their sporting career and it’s paramount to utilise them at every opportunity.


Athletes transition into the corporate landscape with a full backpack of essential workplace skills and qualities and somewhere amongst there, is the precise and profound knowledge and understanding of teamwork. This is not only a desirable and useful trait in all aspects of life, but most definitely an element of character that will support the transition for any retiring athlete.



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