Not everyone considers sports to be a worthwhile investment of one’s time. While I recognize that sports – and baseball in particular – aren’t for everyone, I’ve listed here what I think are 10 important life skills that I learned while playing baseball.
1. Working as a team – While this may be the most obvious, it’s also one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from baseball. The quicker you can mesh the strengths of others with yours, the better the overall end product will be. Working as a team is reflected in relationships, marriages, sports, and particularly in business and life after sports. Leveraging individual strengths into a cohesive group where everyone works together toward accomplishing the same goal is much more beneficial and rewarding than having a group of individually minded players.
2. Strong work ethic- Work ethic is the foundation for anything in life. You will find yourself in rewarding situations more often if you work hard and apply yourself regardless of outcome. A strong work ethic comes from a deep down desire and drive within yourself to improve. This type of mindset is contagious and is very much recognized and appreciated by teammates and coaches.
3. Dealing with pressure- Often it’s the decisions we make under pressure that define who we are professionally and sometimes personally. The pressure we place on ourselves to perform during a baseball game is not all that different than the stresses and pressure we may face every day in the real world. (I am not trying to compare a 0-21 slump to how you are going to make enough money to pay the rent). But I do believe the lessons we learn from the pressures we deal with in baseball helps us to learn how to manage our emotions and improve our focus on whatever the immediate task at hand might be.
For example, when you are at the plate, you have to keep your mind on your hitting approach, and not be distracted by thoughts of what will happen if you don’t get a hit right then. Or if your mind wanders after hours of playing in the field without any action, inevitably it will be that moment that a laser line drive comes your way. In life, losing your focus or buckling under pressure creates different problems.
Pressure at work can affect your performance at work or at home, or a distracted moment at the wheel can lead to tragic consequences. This is why learning to deal with pressure in ways not controlled by your emotions or feelings is a valuable life skill.
4. Working with new and sometimes unfamiliar people- You will quickly learn how to deal with and talk to people you have never met before. In this game you are constantly meeting new people and playing on new teams. Being comfortable in situations where you may know nobody is a positive skill.
5. Dealing with failure- Baseball is a game of failure and learning how to take the positives out of our shortcomings is very important. There are many times in life where we come up a little short and being able to positively deal with the situation and learn from our past will help us in the future.
6. Dealing with success- It is important to strive for success and to be the best you can be. It is equally important to be gracious in our victories. Rubbing success in the faces of others does little for team chemistry and is not easily forgotten when you are on the short end of success.
7. Learning how to keep your cool when fans are yelling at you intentionally trying to get under your skin- This is another example of handling pressure. Learning to block out and manage your emotions when fans are yelling and sometimes being harsh is an important skill for helping you focus on the task at hand. Letting outside influences that you don’t control affect your performance will distract you from your goal. Learning to rise above and still be able to perform is in crunch time situations is an important skill I’ve learned through baseball.
8. Not making emotional decisions- Emotions can make you do things you normally wouldn’t do because of fear. Being able to cut through the emotion can be extremely difficult, but if you can keep the emotions from influencing your decisions you will find this skill to be very beneficial in the long run. Baseball lessons teach us to play the game with heart, but not let emotions take over and control your game.
9. Learning how to separate baseball life from personal life- It is very difficult to leave the baseball player at the field and not take a bad day home with you after a game. When you mix your professional life and your personal life without setting boundaries between them it can cause an imbalance between the two. My passion for baseball is an asset that has helped me be successful, but it can also cause me to be unsettled and emotional when it’s not going well. Without proper boundries between my professional and personal life, I couldn’t be the father and husband that my family deserves. Mixing the two can definitely lead to strained relationships on both sides.
10. Learn to push even when you are tired and don’t have much in the tank- How many times do you see people give up or not give all they have because they are tired and the let their body convince their mind that they have nothing left to contribute for that day. Pushing through and giving all you have on a day when you are tired says a lot about your character. The easy thing to do is “give up” but baseball makes you push even when you are feeling tired. This skill will definitely make you proud of yourself.
These lessons have been a big part of my learning process during my baseball career. I believe these are important for any young person to learn early in life. We all make mistakes, but mistakes made as youth tend to have less harmful consequences than those made as an adult. Better a strikeout than a car accident. Better to be punished with extra conditioning than prison or divorce. Maybe it seems dramatic, but that’s the point. Baseball mimics life in a lot of ways, and it provides kids with a learning environment that won’t be duplicated until they are much older.
Authored by Doug Bernier; Edited by John Ellsworth
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Thanks Doug for sharing this.
If I had to use a summary phrase for myself, to capture the essence of this post, I’d say that baseball (and as others have mentioned sports in general) is a great teacher of learning to leverage mindset and manage emotions.
Thanks again Doug as well as others contributing to the comments.
Great article- number 10 really hit home because I’m having that issue with my 11 year old son- not just with baseball ball but with his school work. Good enough isn’t good enough. I’m going to share this with him.
Great post Doug! I will share with my friends involved with youth baseball. Hope all is well.
Such a great topic. I’m sure some of these with my direct reports at a meeting. Also, great to see Santa Maria reps doing well. Congrats!
11. Let your bat do the talking. Let other people brag about you, don’t ever brag about yourself.
12. Timing is everything. It doesn’t matter how big the bat if you can’t time the pitch,
13. Play for the joy of playing. If you play for the crowd life is an empty journey.
That is where I fell short in it really sunk in when I read this I really loved the attention and actually lived in a town called Southlake Texas that you’ve probably heard of because of how popular their high school sports are and I was a favorite in the Dallas Fort Worth star-telegram. I mean I was in the paper every other day with several pictures and got voted best center fielder and all of Dallas Fort Worth so when I got to Texas Tech who recruited me but was the only team that wanted me to play a year without anything but books being paid for and that was a huge mistake. I believe the baseball more than any other sport that it is imperative unless you are a hundred miles an hour left handed pitcher or just a freaking nature that you prove yourself at the d1 level it junior college ball where I had several full ride & ignored all of them. I have now been out of college for 10 years and I still think about it everyday but I am learning to accept my mistake but man I’ll tell you I think that the choices that I made especially after being released from Texas Tech for partying too much and then a torn ACL at University of Oklahoma was interested in me and I didn’t even have the discipline to get back in shape anyway this article just really hit home with me I was a 44 center fielder with the 400 batting average man junior and senior year there has to be a time and hopefully a lot sooner than it took me but if you don’t make it or you make the wrong decisions and end up hanging up your clothes like I did you have to be able to forgive yourself or I can affect your entire life so I’m working very hard to except when I did and not feel like it was my fault I just feel like that God had other plans for me.
Thats a great attitude and I’m glad you are working hard. I believe if you keep working hard you will find your calling and be able to make a positive impact on people. thanks for writing to us. Take care and good luck.
When the ball is traveling towards your head,
Great stuff Doug. Most of these touch on the mental side which can be the most important of them all. One of my favorite quotes is “The only slump is between your ears.”
Doug – absolutely great commentary. I actually gave a speech containing many of these same points about a year and a half ago in upstate New York. To me, baseball taught me more life lessons than anything I learned in college or law school – namely, how to work as a team, how to set goals, learning how to appreciate winning and learn from losing, and, overall, how to build relationships and partnerships with people – regardless of what line of work you are in. I really like what you are doing with the website here and I have begun examining what I can do to give back to the game – either via charitable work or otherwise and hope to make many contributions to the game going forward. Thanks for a great commentary, I’d be happy to assist with your site or other endeavors in any way, best of luck on and off the field, and will send you a note under separate cover.
Rlly good topic. And I wouldn’t just limit it to Baseball – I think you can learn alot from being involved in all sports! The points @Doug touched upon were all really relevant and strong points. Working as A Team, Working Under Pressure – Keeping Your Cool, Dealing With Failure, etc, are all lessons we can take to other aspects of our lives and are important for us to learn at a young age.
As a sales manager, I always look for people who played competitive sports (and mainly team sports) in their lives. IMHO, it helps build some of the disciplines that are needed in a successful sales environment. As Doug points out, working as a Team is very important in various aspects of one’s life – both personal and professional. I find that people who have played team sports understand the needs of getting along with others in competitive environment and working towards a common goal.
Two other points that I feel are also important lessons learned from Sports are Accountability and Competitiveness. I believe sports can help define one’s competitive nature, which isnt all that bad (depending on that level of competitive spirit one has!) when one enters the business world. (Yes, some people take the competitive spirit a little too far!) The business world is very competitive (as we all know) and how one demonstrates that competitive nature can help provide success. (In sales, taking every “No” to heart, and striving to make budget goals for example)
Gd Post Doug
That was a very good read and it makes sense to me! Teamwork, dealing with failures, etc. Baseball is very similar to life off the field as well. One example I like is that if you give something “your best shot” even if you come up short it is so much easier to deal with. Good article and thanks for the share!
This was a very mature and seasoned commentary; also good life lesson reminders for all of us. Thanks
Nice spring training for you so far; way to take it to Boston and Philly.