Sports Skills Can Strengthen Tomorrow’s Workforce
Kelly Crowley '99
As robots come for our jobs, the global population continues to grow, and the climate changes, the workforce will eventually resemble the elite sports world: There will be many people seeking just a few good (well-paying) jobs. How can we prepare our kids for success in their adult lives? As a coach, I see three important areas where the field of sports can help them.
Sports Can Teach You Important Human Skills
There is literally a class at the school where I work called “Human Skills.” And the kids and I joke about it, asking, what do you actually learn? How to eat food, how to breathe air, how not to turn out to be a robot or a giraffe? But really, as Thomas Friedman points out when he discusses his most recent book, Thank You for Being Late, eventually, artificial intelligence robots will do everything except the things that require human interaction. We are training our kids to be computer programmers, but are they also learning important human skills?
People with well-developed human skills will have more options and be highly valuable in a “fully automated” economy
Just like the odds of getting an NCAA athletic scholarship today are slim, the odds of landing a programming job are eventually going to be just as slim because of the small number of jobs available. People with well-developed human skills will have more options and be highly valuable in a “fully automated” economy. To be successful on a sports team, you really have to learn how to read people, communicate with other humans, understand emotion in yourself and your teammates and your opponents, and more.
Sports Can Teach You to Recognize and Appreciate Good Luck
Sports can teach our kids how to be ruthlessly competitive when it comes to the “controllable circumstances,” but more important, it can teach them how to appreciate the role of luck in success. Often it’s not that successful people are more deserving, but just that they happened to be in the right place at the right time, or that the “uncontrollable circumstances”—in sports, for example, a referee’s bad call or the weather at a swim meet—just happened to go your way. And if our kids are appreciative of (or at least able to recognize) their good luck when they are successful, they will likely be more ethical leaders because they know the next turn of luck might not go their way. This is crucial because the world is, by definition, full of uncontrollable circumstances. The only thing each of us ultimately controls is ourselves.
Sports Can Teach Adaptability
Good athletes have the ability to make good decisions in high-pressure, dynamic situations. Can you make good decisions on the fly in a game? What do you do when a traffic accident makes your team late and you can't do the warm-up routine you’ve been rehearsing? How do you adapt when things don't turn out as planned? Thanks to climate change and the acceleration of robotics/automation our kids will be grown-ups in a world that we mostly can't predict. AND if we think the world is changing quickly—in fact, so fast that millions of people can't keep up or adapt (think: unemployed machinists who want their old jobs back)—what is it going to be like as the pace of change continues to accelerate? A person’s ability to adapt to change will be the thing that makes him or her successful.
What do today’s kids need to thrive in the world and workforce of tomorrow? I suggest engaging them in competitive sports.