According to the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, an estimated 45 million children participate in sports in the United States annually. It’s no secret that sports have benefits for young participants, from physical and psychological to social development. As an athlete who got started as a toddler and played through college, I have definitely experienced the benefits. I was focused, fit, confident and always ready to give it 100%—no matter the task at hand. It wasn’t until I graduated college and made a break for the professional world that I recognized the skills I had developed through sports that gave me an edge over my peers.
After graduating college as an NCAA Division I athlete, I wasn’t quite sure which path was right for me. Of course, I had interests and favorite school subjects, but I felt like I needed a strategy to figure out what my next steps in life should be. I needed to identify my strengths, weaknesses, interests and goals before thinking about searching for available job opportunities. After spending some time mapping out these thoughts, I felt like the picture was becoming much clearer for me. I was ready to officially begin my job search.
A process that I thought would take a few weeks turned into a few months. I hadn’t realized the timeline that went along with the job search—from resume creation and searching job sites for interesting and available positions to completing pages of applications. I later found these activities were the easy part. The wait to hear back from a job application felt like an eternity. Through this process, I learned that I would need to be patient to persevere and find the perfect fit. I completed application after application with nothing but silence. I knew at this point that it was more important than ever that I keep my head up and continue to put my best foot forward. Using feedback, I continued to adjust my resume and approach to applications and interviews, and the efforts finally paid off. I got the interview!
Once I landed the interview, I knew I had to treat it like game day. I needed to prepare—do my research, impress the hiring manager and convince the company that they needed me on their team. Throughout the interview, I did my best to focus on my leadership and teamwork skills, which had become second nature for me. The individuals who interviewed me were impressed to hear about my college sports background and ability to balance training and my schoolwork while maintaining a high GPA. I had a great feeling following the interview—a feeling like I was back on the field and had just scored the winning goal.
After another few weeks, I got the call! I had landed my first full-time role and was ready to be a part of a team again. I took the initiative to learn as much about the organization and my new role as possible. It wasn’t long before my leadership skills allowed me to feel confident in taking on projects with my new colleagues. I wanted my team to know that I could be reliable and disciplined when we had short timelines to complete projects. I could always be held accountable for my work.
Youth sports come with a plethora of benefits for young competitors that are easily recognized by society, but it is the larger, more impactful life lessons taught through sports that truly help shape children and prepare them for their future. I am thankful for my sports journey and continue to incorporate the lessons and skills I have learned into my everyday life.
Najia Hasan is the chief programs and development officer for Koa Sports, a nonprofit organization dedicated to shaping kids’ lives through sports. Learn more at koasports.org.