Enrique Rodríguez Aréchiga
CFO and CO-Founder
Someone Somewhere
Startup Contributor

Entrepreneurs and Sports: It’s More Than Just a Game

By Enrique Rodríguez Aréchiga | Mon, 08/16/2021 - 13:11

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo have come to an end. The world enjoyed seeing athletes in many disciplines competing at the highest level. We came to know their incredible stories that inspired us and made us take note of the great effort and discipline they have needed to be prepared for each competition. We saw them crying, laughing, smiling, and shouting. They showed us that the competition is not only against someone else but against their own mind and body, and their own limits.

Sports have given me a lot of lessons, some of them consciously and others subconsciously. Sport have contributed to my personal growth though big challenges, glories, and losses in many spheres of life. Nowadays, as an entrepreneur, I still make analogies to soccer when I explain our organigram as a team lineup or a commercial strategy as a tactic on the field.

Trying to gain a deeper understand of the influence of sports in an entrepreneurial life, I decided to ask 47 entrepreneurs for their perspective on this topic, so I could find some relationship between the sports they practiced in their childhood and adolescence and their interest in starting a business and their entrepreneurial profile. Here are my main findings.

Ninety percent of those surveyed played multiple or collective sports, while only 10 percent practiced an individual sport. The most popular sports were soccer at, 61.7 percent; tennis, with 48.9 percent; basketball 38.3 percent; swimming, 36.2 percent; and running, 27.7 percent. When people explained why they chose those sports, they said that they had fun, that they were good at it, and three of them mentioned their parents inspired them to play the sport. This had a strong relation to their answer regarding their entrepreneurial style, with 63.8 percent identifying as “teamwork entrepreneurs” and 25.5 percent saying they were “multi-entrepreneurs,” which means that most of the people who practice collective or multiple sports maintained a teamwork approach.

When answering what did they learn from sports, 42.5 percent said teamwork; 36.1 percent discipline; 21.2 percent patience and perseverance; and 10 percent effort. They mentioned things like self-esteem, communication, leadership, and concentration. Complementing this, 66 percent considered that sports have had a strong influence on their becoming entrepreneurs, 21 percent think sports had no relation and 13 percent were not sure or had never thought about it before.

Here are some of the responses:

“Not much.”

“Not consciously.”

“Yes, you must know yourself, the field, your opponent, to be fast, aggressive, analyze and find the opportunity. And always maintain balance.”

“100 percent, nothing is impossible; no matter the size of your rival you can beat them by playing to your strengths.”

“Yes, it has made me remember how to enjoy triumphs, and how if something doesn’t turn out the way I wanted, there will always be another ‘match.’ Remember that everyone has a role on the team, and you have to trust each other to accomplish the goal.”

The main attitudes that were highlighted by entrepreneurs were to work as a team, being optimistic, being respectful and putting common goals above individual goals. In the same vein, the values that were mentioned the most are: perseverance, respect, effort, improvement and being rational. Having been exposed to collective sports has influenced them to work as teammates, train hard and persevere against the challenges of the game.

When asked what level of participation they had in their sport, 46.8 percent answered that they were either the team captain or second captains and 78.7 percent confirmed themselves as CEOs at some point in their career, of which 59.5 percent were first or second captains of their teams. It seems that CEOs were already leaders when they were young.

Of the respondents, 48.9 percent consider themselves visionaries, which means they creatively look for new opportunities, think outside the box and dream big. Relative to leadership, 44.7 percent confirm themselves as strategic leaders, 19.1 percent as coaches and 17 percent as democratic leaders who like to hear their team’s point of view while making important decisions.

I also wanted to know how entrepreneurs interpreted some key concepts that they experienced while doing sports or doing business. Let’s see what we can learn with these interesting answers (my responses are without quotations):

Failures are: “Lessons, a necessity, part of the journey.”

We must practice a lot of kickoffs until we score a goal.

Frustrations are: “Hard but key for innovation.”  

We need to remember that they are normal when you are surfing new waves.

Fears are: “Valid, to be conquered.”

It’s normal to feel nervous when you are about to bungie jump.

Barriers are: “In your mind, temporary, penetrable.”

As the North Face slogan says: Walls are meant to be climbed.

Anxiety is: “Lack of control, more common than we think, gone when I pray.”

We need to hold the hand of God in difficult moments; He is always there for us.

Burnouts are: “Dangerous, preventable, a wake-up call, not worth it.”

Even the best US gymnast can suffer from mental burnout at some point in their career.

Triumphs are: “Consequences, to be accepted with humility, to celebrate.”

Winning a trophy is not just winning that final match, it’s winning the whole tournament.

Objectives are: “Your daily medicine, indispensable, discipline, your North Star.”

Play each ball as if it was the last one. One by one.

Challenges are: “Fun, exciting, the way to growth, your fuel.”

Enjoy the hike no matter how far the summit is.

Motivations are: “Energy, one’s responsibility, the true magic in teams, something to spread.”

Many matches have been won just because of the magic speeches from coaches.

Inspiration is: “Everywhere, felt in the heart, a necessary spark, to help others.”

Be conscious of your purpose and work to achieve it.

Culture is: “Everything, fundamental, set by leaders, the most important value of a company.”

The culture of a sports club must be transmitted to every new player; they are the ones who represent the club in every competition.

For many people like me, sports have been a fundamental element to learn good values and principles, for personal growth and a source of energy and happiness.

“I love sports ... I believe my job is extremely related to what I feel when I am practicing sports. It couldn’t be any other way, or I would be extremely unhappy and unsatisfied with myself.”

“When you’re scared and at the same time motivated … you’re going the right way”

“Having discipline in a sport or culture helps to develop the potential of your future. Be resilient and develop a wise prudence.”

When I practice some sports, my mind, body and spirit synchronize, I can feel the state of flow. I thank my parents who inspired me to practice a lot of sports in my childhood. I’m the adult and entrepreneur who I am because of all the experiences learned doing sports. 

Photo by:   Enrique Rodríguez