I can still remember my first varsity tennis playoff win like it was yesterday. The real benefits of competing in that match and getting a victory wouldn't become clear until years later.
When I first got to high school, I was timid. I was a short, stocky, baby-faced, white kid who didn't know anyone. But, I knew how to change all that real quick: join a sports team.
Originally, I thought I was going to try out for the junior varsity baseball team. I played baseball since I was 5 years old, so it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. However, for reasons I'm still unsure of today, on my way to the baseball field, I somehow got sidetracked and ended up at my high school's tennis courts.
I dabbled with tennis here and there, but certainly not enough to play on a team -- or so I thought. An hour after hitting my first forehand, I was one of the newest members of the Francis Lewis High School varsity tennis team.
The experiences gained and lessons learned in my four years on the team didn't even begin to bear fruit until recently when I secured my first full-time job and realized those who played sports in high school were way more likely to succeed in the real world. These are the reasons they succeed.
1. They know "playing the game" can have different meanings.
Oftentimes, "playing the game" can mean reading the situation and saying and doing things you know are required, whether or not you truly believe them. You may not think a co-worker's idea is the best one, but you know keeping things productive and amicable is what's best for the team as a whole.
Other times, former high school athletes know "playing the game" is exactly what it sounds like. It's about going all in and hitting one out of the park to get sh*t done.
2. They know how to get along with multiple personalities to achieve a common goal.
One of the best, and toughest, parts of working with a team in an office is interacting with multiple opinions and personalities to find success. Much like a sports team, everyone has a part to play in a winning or losing effort.
The best teammate becomes the best co-worker because he or she instills calmness and trust in the squad. Not only are you going to go the extra mile for your teammate, you're more likely to end up on top when the buzzer sounds.
3. They won't put themselves before others.
During my senior year of high school, I was made captain of my varsity tennis team. It was one of my first leadership roles in life, and I know it set me up for success down the road. I had teammates my age, older and four years younger depending on me for leadership not just on the court but also in practice and during team trips.
Athletes know the success of an individual is based on the success of the team, not vice versa. Putting co-workers, friends and family before yourself are the marks of a true champion.
4. They never take their eyes off the prize.
In today's 24/7 world, it's too easy to get sidetracked and fall off, but anyone who played a high school sport knows it's all about staying focused and keeping your eyes on the prize.
The minute a pitcher or middle infielder forgets about the runner on second, the game can change in an instant. The minute you choose to leave the office at 5 pm on the dot instead of finishing that report is the same moment you allow your competitors to take the lead.
5. When push comes to shove, they get the jobs done or they don't.
There is no gray area when it comes to sports, only scoreboards. Thank you, Ari Gold. Former athletes know, at the end of the day, there are only wins or losses. Former athletes won't always walk away with wins, but they're not under any false illusions when they don't.
6. They never forget the score.
Keeping track of your goals without letting them consume you is crucial. There are few who understand this better than former athletes. The key is to always keep that number or benchmark in the back of your mind but not let it interfere with how you get to your goal.
7. They keep their friends close and their enemies closer.
Any former athlete will tell you one of the keys to your own success is knowing your opponents better than they know themselves. This is why teams study game tapes. You pick up tendencies, patterns and tells.
The same principles hold true in your personal life and the workplace. Know what your business' competitors are doing. Know what other Millennials are doing to have successful love lives so you can find the significant other of your dreams.
8. They never give up, no matter how much they're up against.
One thing you're sure to see in any former high school athlete worth his or her salt is a never-say-die attitude. No matter how impossible the task, a former athlete always plays to the whistle. When this ideology is applied in the workplace or in personal relationships, it's not only to the benefit of the individual but also to everyone else around him or her.
9. They have respect for those in positions above them and can quickly identify leadership qualities.
Coaches, teachers, parents and bosses all fall into the category of authority figures. When you're introduced to a coach at a young age, you not only learn respect for the people in positions above you, but you learn very quickly what makes a good leader. Showing respect for superiors is key, but identifying what makes a good leader will help you even more down the line.
10. They are role models and advisers to those underneath them.
For a former high school athlete, taking a freshman under your wing is the same as taking it upon yourself to make a new employee feel like a welcomed and valued part of the company. Leadership is key at all levels of life.
11. They always give 110 percent, no matter how they feel or what their tasks are.
A former high school athlete will show more determination than anyone else in life. Whether it be in the workplace or the bedroom, a former athlete will always give 110 percent in everything he or she does.
12. They are great multitaskers.
Part of being a great athlete is being a great multitasker. Part of being a successful individual is juggling more tasks than most can keep track of. Staying on top of calls, emails, reports and the needs of loved ones is all in a day's work for a former high school athlete, aka a successful person.