How Can Wrestling Effect Your Work Life In The Future?
Wrestles make the best employees!
“More enduringly than any other sport, wrestling teaches
self-control and pride. Some have wrestled without great skill—none have
wrestled without pride.” ~ Dan Gable
Today’s workforce is extremely competitive. When comparing
resumes it’s easy to get lost in all the bullet points of software literacy and
past responsibilities. If you really want to separate two seemingly qualified
employees, bring them in for an interview and ask a simple question, “Have you
ever participated in sports at an elite level?”
“Current research indicates that individuals who have competed
in elite level athletics, i.e., collegiate, international, or professional
level competition possess higher levels of emotional intelligence than their
non-athlete counterparts,” says Richard Mendelson, I.O. psychologist and
founder of Dynamic IO Consultants, a consulting firm specializing in human
capital management and other services.
In 1996, Dr. William Brad McGonagle, associate vice
president for administration at Texas A&M University wrote his
dissertation studying how former athletes transfer the skill set they
developed through athletics to the workplace. He found that an employee
with prior athletic experience was able to transfer the lessons of being a team
player and also noticed strengths in accomplishment-based skills, discipline,
In 2002, professors Daniel Gould and Kristen Dieffenbach
published a study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology which
noted that Olympic champions display higher levels of specific
attributes directly linked to success, in particular emotional intelligence.
Their research showed that these elite athletes displayed high levels of stress
management, interpersonal skills, and self regard.
The conclusion of all this research could be seen during the
1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, when American wrestler, Dan
Gable, won the gold medal without giving up a single point! This is perhaps one
of the greatest Olympic performances of all time. And while this level of
performance would be hard to duplicate on any stage, can you imagine this same
type of focus and determination on display in your office?
While I acknowledge that nearly all athletes at an elite level
have a tremendous amount of drive, wrestlers in particular seem to operate at a
higher level of fortitude. Not that my athletic history is anything to write
about, but I wrestled in college and have been surrounded by amazing athletes
of all sports. I’ve known Olympians, world champions, college champions and
everything in between. The one constant observation is that wrestlers have a
capacity to push themselves harder than most and display an unrivaled mental
toughness—that and a deep desire to eat.
Socrates once said, “I swear it upon Zeus an outstanding runner
cannot be the equal of an average wrestler.”
Wise words considering being fleet of foot is how a wrestler
starts his day. In the business arena, being fast or strong doesn’t necessarily
rank as a top priority in our service economy. So why should you care?
“Wrestling, in particular, is thought to require more individual
commitment than most other sports due to the nature of the training and
competing itself. The logical inference, then, is that with other sports, an
athlete can go to practice or a game, and then go home to relax. Wrestlers, due
to the weight class requirements, have to maintain their focus and drive around
the clock for years at a time,” says Mendelson, a former college wrestler.
“In addition, wrestling is an individual sport and the athlete
experiences both failure and success as an individual. As a result, the
wrestler endures more physical, emotional, and psychological stress, both
positive and negative, than an athlete in another sport.”
I can tell you that the biggest lesson I learned during my
wrestling career was humility. Even the great Dan Gable lost a match. Over the
years I learned that getting knocked down was just part of the process to work
even harder and to improve. I now encourage the success of others because I
enjoy the challenge of meeting those higher expectations. Even during the
all-night programming sessions to launch new features on Hitched, it has never
felt difficult since I know 100 of those nights will never be as hard as a
single wrestling practice.
The competitive spirit in other athletes might argue that they
too exude these same qualities at the same level. They might be right, which is
why the question you should pose during an interview is asking about their
entire athletic background. Saying that, when the bullet points begin to once
again merge as you stare down two athletes, I recommend you go with the
“Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” ~ Dan