Since I can remember, and even earlier based on pictures, I have always played soccer and been a part of a team. Practices, team parties, and games are some of my earliest and favorite memories. Being an athlete was a big part of my life from elementary school through college and continues to be part of my identity today. While I don’t spend as much time training, I continue to leverage the lessons I learned on and off the field as an athlete in my new role as a software developer.
"Great things in business are never done by one person; they're done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned as an athlete that have made me a better developer:
Failure is part of success. Athletes constantly make mistakes at practices, make the wrong decisions during a play, and lose games, but with an understanding that all of those failures will make you better in the end. Embracing failure as part of the journey to success opens your eyes to new ways to think, improve your skills, and grow; all of which are crucial to being a good developer. Besides, if you didn’t experience failure, would success even feel as great?
Teamwork. “There is no I in team” is something every person who has played a team sport has heard at least once. Athletes have to learn to work with diverse personalities, motivate people differently, and respect every person on the team in order to experience success as a group. At gap, we practice Agile Scrum which relies heavily on a team mentality. We have a killer team who is always willing and ready to push each other, lift each other up, and celebrate our team successes.
You have to push yourself outside your comfort zone. One of my biggest takeaways from the field is remembering when I would think “I can’t do this”, but somehow digging deep and finding a way to finish the drill, game, or whatever else was in front of me. As a developer, sometimes I will start working on a feature and think there is no way I am smart enough to figure this out, but that same inner voice pipes up and reminds me that I am capable and I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to.
Flexibility, and not the kind required to do the splits. When people on a soccer team are hurt or missing, it’s up to everyone else to step up and fill in for that teammate. The same thing happens at work on our Agile team if our Scrum Master is out, a Product Owner isn’t available to test, or someone just wants to take a vacation. Being an athlete has prepared me to step into (almost) any role on the team and help as needed.
How to win. I started this by saying athletes understand failure, but athletes also know how to win. Winning is a mentality that pushes you to do whatever it takes to succeed and get the job done. When a deadline is approaching or there is a daunting amount of work to do, not finishing or making the deadline is not an option. Athletes will push themselves and their limits to ensure the goal is met.
These 5 different traits have made me push myself, work positively within a team, and helped me learn and grow as a soccer player and now as a developer. I believe that being able to harness the skills and energy that built me into an athlete also allows me endless possibilities as a software developer.
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