Enterprise Rent-A-Car is probably the company that comes to mind when you talk about hiring college athletes. They spend a good chunk of money running commercials during the NCAA Tournament, claiming to be one of the biggest recruiters of athletes. I’m not sure about their reasons, but I have my own.
Krossover being a sports technology company, hiring people who are passionate about sports is a no brainer for us. But that doesn’t mean all my guys are sports fans / athletes – what’s more important is passion, about sports, or frankly just about anything. I like to hire college athletes because the vast majority of them are passionate. It’s hard to put in the kind of work needed to be a college athlete in this country, if you don’t love your sport. Eventually you may grow to hate it, but at least for some period of time in your life, you knew what it meant to be passionate about something. It turns out, plenty of people go through life, never knowing what this actually feels like, and I hire athletes because I want someone who is capable of feeling passion. The kind that makes you say you will give up everything for that something or someone.
College athletes know what hard work is. Nobody has ever played on a division 1 basketball team, and not had to bust ass till the point of near death. They’ve had to wake up at 5 am and run in the cold, and taken long bus rides in the middle of the night to get back home from a road game. Nothing is harder than waking up at 4am and running sprints when you were out till 1am getting wasted with your frat brothers. Not even working at a startup. So if you survived college athletics, I think you’re ready for the grind of a startup.
Athletes know what it means to be part of a team. If you never played organized sports, you’ve never really been on a team. Which means this startup could potentially be your first time working in an environment where you have to sacrifice, give credit, and put the team before yourself, every single day. That isn’t easy for anyone, especially a 25 year old that has spent his whole life never having to really think about these things. Some people might be naturals, but others could find this tough. There are no second chances at a startup, so I’d rather go with someone that knows how to be a team player, than a guy who potentially sticks out like a sore thumb.
Athletes know how to win. This is something I didn’t realize until recently. I had taken for granted that because I’ve been a competitor since the time I was 3 years old, and have always known the difference between winning and losing – well so did everyone else. Frankly, I think I hate losing more than I love winning. But that’s something that was instilled in me from as far back as I can remember, because I’ve always been playing something. It turns out, a lot of people never really play organized sports, which means they’ve never truly had the opportunity to experience the joy of winning, or the agony of defeat. A startup is all about winning and losing. Extreme highs and lows are commonplace, and I need people on my team who not only know that they want to win, but also know how to win.
With 65 people at our company now, obviously I haven’t been able to find a team that large which comprises of just athletes. But what I have found, is that time and time again, my highest performers are people that played a sport in college / high school, or are incredibly passionate people. Coincidence? Probably not.