Leadership Perspectives: From sportsmanship to entrepreneurship

Sports, much like business, represent a global entity. No matter the sport, the values created and embedded on the court, mat, and field don’t just lie within the lines. How can the drive and passion for sports carry over to society, where individuals can enhance business organizations and their own enterprises with their background in sportsmanship? In turn, how do sports shape society? The 2017 Leadership Perspectives series continued by discussing these topics and more at the Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center at Olin.

The St. Louis Business Journal’s Senior Reporter, Brian Feldt, moderated the forum. The panelists included Solomon Alexander, Foundation Director, St. Louis Sports Commission; Drew Caylor, Partner, Louis York Capital & EMBA Alumnus; Khalia Collier, Owner/General Manager, St. Louis Surge Women’s Basketball; Tim Hayden, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Stadia Ventures; and Greg Waldbaum, CEO, 3D Lacrosse & Olin Alumnus.

Each of the panelists brought a unique perspective on the contribution of sports, with commentary on topics ranging from the value of trophies in kids’ sports leagues to the recruiting of high school and professional athletes. One attendee brought her high school-aged son to learn from the panel’s experiences. Waldbaum pointed out that “grades and more grades” are most important in college scouting, emphasizing the importance of success in the classroom as well as in competition. However, he specified that colleges contact high school coaches quite frequently to find out how players perform as a team player and how they lead and show good sportsmanship. Much like academics, sports play a key role in opening up opportunities for getting into a reach school.

On the impact of sports on leadership, Collier noted, “96 percent of women at the executive level attribute their success to sports.” The St. Louis Surge players not only serve as All-American NCAA athletes, but also as role models and mentors, fostering the next generation of leaders. Caylor, who spent several of his early post-college years in the NFL as a center, is a prime example of how sports values also carry over to a business career. Caylor realized that although his true passion and talents lie more within the financial industry, he still balanced the technical skills necessary for the investment sector with the team and collaborative-based skills learned on the field.

In a similar vein, Hayden brought up a fun fact: “Junior Bridgeman is the second-wealthiest athlete”—not holistically due to athletic achievements, but due to entrepreneurship in using his sports salary to buy and invest in franchises both in and out of the sports world. Hayden and Waldbaum both agreed on how experiencing the reality of either a ‘W’ or a ‘L’ in sports educates a former athlete on how to rebound after a failure as an entrepreneur and problem solve when it comes to adapting strategies for business.

In addition to skills for the job market, perhaps the most applicable takeaway of the session, and of sport itself, is learning invaluable life lessons on how to be a teammate and an emphatic human being. Collier underscored that much more than stats contribute to an athlete’s success—character, she said, speaks volumes.

As the forum ended, Solomon Alexander said, to a round of applause, that the best translation of sportsmanship to society is “treating each other like a fellow human being in the most respectful way.”

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