Why employers love student-athletes: Teamwork, discipline, time management

'The stereotype of the dumb jock is laughable'

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Student-athletes hone highly marketable skills during their college years—balancing classes, training, and at times a job as well, reports University Affairs.

"The stereotype of the dumb jock is laughable," says Pierre Lafontaine, former CEO of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), adding, "Student-athletes are the brightest young people you can meet. Their ability to multitask amazes and inspires me."

The young adults must manage their academics along with full practice schedules, he says, leading them to develop skills and traits that are highly sought-after in the workplace.

More than half of top female execs played college sports

Student-athletes are well-rounded individuals, says Leo MacPherson, former CIS president and founder of the St. Francis Xavier University Athletics Leadership Academy. His program develops varsity athletes' teamwork and leadership, focusing on a broad range of qualities: drive, focus, passion, dedication, honestly, loyalty, preparedness, competitiveness, discipline, resilience, and organization.

Hiring a former athlete means they "get a team player... who has been knocked on their butt and had to face hard truths," says MacPherson.

Cutting a second off racetime takes months of training, work, time, and energy, says Rebekah Sass, a cross-country runner at the University of Manitoba Bisons and an Academic All-Canadian. "The same is true for academics. I put the same dedication and determination and drive into school... I know that to get the rest results I have to put in the time," she says.

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Additionally, student-athletes learn perseverance. "If and when I screw up on the job now, it doesn’t impact my confidence, it just makes me want to get back up and do better," says Rob Wesseling, a former University of Guelph offensive tackle and current EVP of The Co-operators insurance.

Once they graduate, the athletes often end up in politics or senior management positions, according to University Affairs.

"Teamwork, accountability, and trust are strong core values that translate very well into the business world," says Phil Wilson, a human resources expert.

Six of the past 11 U.S. presidents were student-athletes, which is not surprising, says Ian Gellatly, a University of Alberta School of Business HR management and organizational behavior professor, since politics require a team effort to "identify problems and constantly assess and adjust in order to succeed" (Cardwell, University Affairs, 3/11).

The takeaway: Traits and skills developed as a varsity college athlete translate well to the work sphere, reports University Affairs.

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