Carrie Pitzer

The three top characteristics I look for in an employee have nothing to do with journalism, marketing or social media.

I want someone coachable, who is a team player and is also organized. Most — but not all — of my best hires were athletes in high school.

High school athletics are not about earning a college scholarship to play sports. It’s about becoming better — a better teammate, better person, better communicator and better student. Of course, it’s also about enjoying the high school experience.

You’ve likely heard that uncoachable kids become unemployable adults. That’s very true. No one enters a new position, regardless of their experience, with complete knowledge of their role. There’s often different software, deadlines and philosophies that must be learned. 

You’ve also likely heard that a college degree doesn’t make someone more intelligent than a person without that degree. That’s also true — though there’s something to be said about someone who finishes what they start. Resumes listing a job change every 6-12 months doesn’t generally reflect career advancement. 

Many athletes make good employees because they’ve learned to move up the ranks through hard work after years of lessons from their teammates and coaches, including success and disappointment.

Track was always my best sport, although I also played basketball. I was fast, but not quick enough out of the blocks to be a straight sprinter, so the 200, 400 and 800 were better races for me. I ran the opens as well as the 4x400 and 4x800, depending on the meet because it was about the team score, not individual medals. 

If my four events meant 40 points, I ran whatever race my coach put me in for a better team finish. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Wrestling, golf, cross country and track are all team sports, too, with the same lessons possible as football, volleyball and basketball. 

Sometimes those lessons include sitting the bench, whether as a freshman or a senior. There’s opportunity in everything if you choose to see it.

The senior who sat the bench for four years and played the last few minutes of games still dedicated those four years toward practices. Maybe he or she will become a great coach or be a loyal employee who will one day run the company. 

Regardless of playing time, that athlete likely dedicated years to their team, listened to and learned from their coach, was the supportive teammate during ups and downs, kept their grades up while balancing school and sports, and experienced both successes and disappointment.

Similar traits can be found in students involved in various school organizations. Unfortunately, there are less organizations than athletic opportunities, so in many rural communities these characteristics are most often learned through sports. 

High school involvement is key to learning these traits, which often leads to better and more loyal employees — someone coachable, who is a team player and is also organized. 

No, it might not lead to a scholarship to play college sports, but it might just lead to something even better.

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