Lessons learned from my time as a student-athlete
I’ve been a jock my whole life. Some of my earliest memories are playing basketball in my driveway and running football plays in the backyard with my older brother. As I got older, I played baseball, softball and biddy basketball. I even tried acrobatics just for fun (note: it was not fun). In junior high, I found volleyball and it changed my life. I didn’t know at the time that this sport would teach me more about life, friendship, hard work and dedication than anything else, but I’m so glad I went to the gym that day. I played volleyball, basketball and ran track all through junior high and high school, was blessed to play volleyball in college and still slip into my high white socks to play volleyball in a league once a week.
While being an athlete certainly shaped my life growing up, it continues to have an impact on my life every day. The skills and lessons I learned through practices, open gyms, games, and even bus rides continue to make a difference when working with clients and deadlines, setting and reaching goals and thinking strategically. Dot Org Solutions is always trying to do what is best for our clients so that they can make an impact. I know what I learned on the court helps me fulfill that goal.
I like to win. My family jokes about how I can turn everything into a competition. No matter what I do, I want to be the best. On the court, that made me a passionate, emotional and driven player. At work, it translates to always wanting to do the best job I can for our clients. I still view all my projects as a competition and want to win. I get excited when something I am working on comes together and helps them solve a problem. I get anxious if a project is stalling and work hard to ensure it gets back on the right track. I always want to do the best job I can for my clients and myself.
Trust your team (and yourself)
While I mostly played team sports, I also ran track, which is basically an individual sport wrapped in a team sport. I think most jobs are a little more like track. We work on a lot of projects in teams. I brainstorm, ask advice and work with my coworkers to help achieve my goals; however, I am ultimately the one at the starting line waiting for the gun to go off, responsible for where I finish. You must be able to work with others, but you also need to rely on yourself to achieve your goals.
You aren’t always going to get along with your coworkers – I’m lucky that I do – but either way, you must work together. I learned when I was young that not everyone worked the same way I did and had to adjust my attitude for the betterment of the team. We want to do what is best for our clients and we believe that working together will always be a better strategy than working alone.
Coaches and teammates – take the good and the bad
Not every coach is inspiring and not all teammates are your best friends. We can all name bosses and coworkers that we have learned habits from – positive or negative. I have had amazing coaches who pushed me when I needed it and hugged me when I really needed it (shout out to my high school volleyball coach, Jen Lauber) and I’m blessed to have a current boss who believes in me and trusts me to do my job well. The key is to take the good with the bad and decide which pieces you want to emulate and which you never want to repeat. Be a good teammate and coworker. Help when asked, step in when you feel someone needs a little support and always be open to learning something new from others.
Learn from failure
We all fail. I never liked losing and I hated being told what I did wrong. Being able to listen to criticism, not take it personally and learn from it is a skill I’m still practicing. However, it’s imperative if you want to learn from your mistakes and get better. Here at Dot Org, we created core values that we strive to follow every day – at work and in life. One of them is to admit your mistake, fix it and move on. There was always the next play, the next game, the next race that you had to be ready for just like there is another email in your inbox or a voicemail you need to listen to. Don’t take the negative comments personally and use them to be better. While I was writing this, a friend posted this quote to her Facebook page: “When someone does something wrong, don’t forget all the things they did right.” Put another way, when YOU do something wrong, don’t forget all the things YOU did right. Accepting that you will make mistakes, and committing to learning from them, is the only way to improve in sports and in your work.
Be ready to work hard
There is an old quote that I had on a t-shirt in high school that said, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” We all have strengths but if you always rely on the things that come easy to you, you won’t get any better at anything else. Stepping out of our comfort zones and taking on a project that isn’t our immediate strength can be scary, but also empowering. We always want to be able to solve our clients’ problems. At some point, that involves tackling a project or problem that is new, even to us. We research, call in experts and do everything we can to help our clients solve whatever issues they are facing.
I wasn’t just a jock; I was a gym rat. I used my study hall to be a gym aid and headed to college with the thought of being a gym teacher. I came early to practice, I stayed after practice and then I’d go home and practice more. When you go to work, be there. If you need to stay a few minutes extra, do. Showing up when you are needed makes you a better coworker, friend, and person. We are available to our clients when they need us. That might mean flying to meet them, taking a call after or before hours, or answering a quick email on the weekend and that’s ok. We want to be accessible to them, so they know we have their backs.
Being an athlete shaped me and continues to influence how I live my life. The lessons I learned on the court, in the weight room and even on the buses have stayed with me and continue to help me, not only in my personal life but in my career and in my current role at Dot Org. Every day at Dot Org we show up, work hard and become part of our clients’ teams to do the best we can for their organizations.
Like what you read? Subscribe to our weekly blog and it will be delivered directly to your inbox!
Sara Lundenberger - VP, Nonprofit services & operations
Although Sara never meant to be a fundraiser, her first post-college job was as a development assistant and she never looked back. She loves working with our nonprofit clients because they know what they want to achieve, but they may not always know how to get there. She integrates fundraising best practices with an organization’s capacity to create processes and plans that are usable. Sara truly believes nonprofits make the world a better place. From her previous positions to the fantastic clients she works with now, she learns a little more about the world we live in every day. We are all touched by a nonprofit organization every day, whether we know it or not.