With only three months as a full-time professional under my belt, I’ve already discovered several lessons I learned as a soccer player that have been clearly translated over to general office practices.
My trainers and coaches always appreciated players who could be coached. This meant taking key initiatives from practice and applying them to the game.
In the office, this has translated over to being teachable. My leadership team appreciates my strong work ethic because I take the skills I learn from professional development trainings and successfully apply them to my everyday practices and tasks.
Think five steps ahead
Did you know that an individual soccer player only has possession of the ball for an average of two minutes of the entire 90-minute game? That means that the rest of the 88 minutes are spent creating plays and more importantly, thinking ahead with the question, “How can I create the next opportunity?” You must always be on your toes anticipating the next play if you want to move forward and progress as a team towards the goal.
Similar to being an employee, the purpose of each day is to move forward and progress as a team towards a goal. Just like how I would ask myself how I can create the next opportunity on the soccer field, I’m still using that same strategic thinking to anticipate what my boss or coworkers will need from me throughout the work week.
*Pro tip: Always try to turn in projects earlier and, if possible, go above and beyond on the assignment. Is it due on Friday? Set yourself a goal to have it completed by Thursday before noon. Were you asked to brainstorm three creative ideas? Take the time to create five well thought-out plans. Show your leadership you spent a quality amount of time on the project instead of rushing through it.
Take a water break
As a select soccer player training in the Texas summer heat, water breaks were essential to keeping players healthy and hydrated. It allowed us to step away from the game for a minute, maybe get a few pointers from our trainers, hydrate and get back on the field feeling refreshed and ready for the next play.
In the office, it’s less tackling the opposing team’s players and more so tackling lengthy projects. Just like I got tired on the field, I too get tired sitting at my desk staring at a computer screen for hours at a time. Taking a break to literally grab water, walk outside or work with a pen and paper immediately allows time for my brain to relax and gives my body a chance to rehydrate before I revisit projects with a fresh mindset. When I started taking mental breaks at work, I was surprised by how much quicker I was able to work through my projects with consistent top-of-mind thinking rather than gradual work deterioration.
Be a team player
As much as I was proud of my own achievements as an individual soccer player, I knew how I much I depended on my teammates to work together and compete. There was no way I’d be able to score the goals, create opportunities, defend attacks and save shots on goal all by myself. It takes a whole team of players, each with a specific position, to defend and attack as a unit.
Being a team player in the office is just as important. There are a lot of different moving parts on projects and everyone is accountable for their own work. However, if one person slips up, the whole team is affected. It’s important to clearly communicate specific roles and expectations so no one is left wondering why the last section of the project wasn’t completed.
The soccer field should never be quiet. Talented, competitive soccer players are expected to talk to one another on the field because that’s how an environment of opportunity is created. It’s the only way to let your teammates know that you’re wide open, that you’re creating a play, or better yet, to warn your teammate that she has incoming pressure approaching from behind.
Miscommunication is never a good excuse for anything. And although my boss may not have me run 120’s for an hour, the disappoint between my trainer and my boss is the same. So how do I create an environment of opportunity in the workplace? Just as I would on the soccer field: talk.
Something my trainers always appreciated about my play was that they knew they could put me in several different positions and I could excel at each one of them (…except being the goalkeeper. My hand-eye coordination has never been good). I was diverse, experienced and understood what was required of me wherever I was on the field. Right outside defense? Push up, slide to cover and always play the ball away from inside pressure. Sweeper? Get the ball out of the back as quickly as possible. Left outside wing? Create an opportunity for the forward attackers to score.
It’s good to have different skills in the workplace as well. There are simple, free skills that I can improve on like project organization, time management, problem solving and building a strong work ethic, or other classes I can take to learn graphic design, photography or even another language!
While I may not have the opportunity to rip off my shirt like Brandi Chastain did in the 1996 Women’s World Cup victory each time I “score” in the office, it is still important to celebrate wins and milestones in your career…even if it’s just a little behind-the-desk boogie.