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Don’t be a beast in the gym but a punk in the classroom

By From page A8 | April 12, 2014

In my classroom, I have a large laminated quote from motivational speaker Les Brown that reads, “Success happens when opportunity meets preparation.” It is in the most prominent location at the front of the class. It epitomizes the theme of my weeklong career preparation class for youth.

The same words are just as fitting for an athlete, student or a person in business. As a high school basketball coach, it was also posted in the Armijo High School gym where we practiced.

There are a plethora of other motivational, inspirational jewels taken from the sports world that are also applicable in business, career or academic success. The competitive spirit of the athlete should be modeled by anyone in pursuit of personal, educational or occupational accomplishments.

Successful people must have a healthy competitive spirit. The business model for professional sports leagues such as the NBA, NFL and MLB is being used by corporate and Fortune 500 companies.

One of the first messages that I drive home to students is this: “From this moment forward, you will be competing for everything you want for the rest of your life. If you don’t have a healthy competitive spirit, you will be left behind.”

Flashing back, I recall delivering the same spirited message to my young athletes. Whether you are an athlete, student, salesman, chef or a stockbroker, you are in a highly competitive environment. As today’s job market becomes more competitive, career coaches and athletic coaches are beginning to sound the same. Just as the general manager in a sports franchise diligently looks to recruit the most talented free agent or college student, hiring managers look for the same thing, that new hire or acquisition who will help their organization succeed.

When a professional sports franchise wins the championship, leadership doesn’t spend the offseason celebrating their success. They go to work immediately looking for the next draft pick from the college ranks to make their team better. They understand that in this extremely competitive climate, if they are not getting better, they are slipping behind. Major corporations are taking a page from the competitive sports world in their recruiting practices.

I once heard Bill Gates admit that Microsoft dropped the ball by not finding the talents of Mark Zuckerberg, which is also what IBM said about Gates in the early 1980s.

We should imitate the competitive attitude of the professional athletes and the atmosphere of the business of sports.

Sports metaphors makes perfect applications for career success trainers. I often challenge youth to have the same zeal as an athlete in their academics. Why be a beast in the gym but a punk in the classroom? You are very confident and aggressive on the field, but in the classroom you sit at the back of the class and are afraid to participate. You should summon the same passion you have as an artist, in your career ambition.

How does one develop a healthy competitive spirit? By striving to contribute the best effort in everything you do. If there is a quantifiable measure of success, then seek to reach the top mark. Pursue the title of valedictorian of your class or the employee of the year at your job. Why not? You were the MVP of your sports team and the league’s leading scorer.

Display the same competitive, confident swagger you had as a jock when you are in your career or trade. With that healthy competitive spirit present, you will be successful, regardless of the field.

Deon Price is an author and youth life skills coach who lives in Fairfield. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/youthgeneration.

Deon Price


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  • Rich GiddensApril 12, 2014 - 11:54 am

    That's outstanding advice and very motivating Mr. Price. Students are very fortunate to have you as a teacher and your influence extends far beyond the classroom. Your wise counsel will be ingrained into many impressional young people for the rest of their lives and they will never forget you!

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