Five Sports Interviews That Taught Me Business Lessons

I am a firm believer in the fact that people learn from their interactions with others. It’s simply a matter of if those individuals convert that knowledge (good or bad) into valuable use that sets people a part. In my previous career, which I still dabble in on occasion, I covered professional sports. This means thousands of one-on-one interactions with some of the most well known athletes in the world.

By no means am I using this as a forum to name drop. Instead, I want to let you know what I’ve learned from these interactions. Each of these athletes are a mega brand, who are monitored constantly both on the field and off. You, in turn, can use this as a reference to how to handle yourself as you grow your mobile business under the microscope of current and potential clients.

The mobile space is growing rapidly. Businesses are always looking for the latest industry edge. That’s why it’s important to ensure you build a business that puts your customers first, can support their needs and stays innovative while pointing to your magnetic north. What I mean in that last point is never forget your ultimate goals while continuing to build and adapt to the times.

These athletes’ magnetic north is everything from winning a Super Bowl to The Masters. Their honing their games to become better, which in turn makes their brand stronger. That’s why there are business lesson parallels here.

Here are five sports interviews and what I learned from them:

Tom Brady – I interviewed Tom Brady multiple times, but the first was after a loss to the New York Jets. If you’re a football fan, then you know how unhappy he must have been. After speaking, we shook hands. His handshake was firm as he looked me dead in the eye. I thanked him for our chat, to which he responded, “No, thank you.”

What I Learned: Being genuine carries a lot of weight. People remember that.

LeBron James – In two-plus years working for the NBA, I had a number of run-ins with James. One of the most memorable though was his first trip to Madison Square Garden after “The Decision.” Most fans thought James was coming to play for the Knicks when he became a free agent, only to leave them feeling burned by choosing Miami. The atmosphere was completely against James that night, with every touch of the ball inducing a chorus of boos. After the game, James wasn’t arrogant or dismissive of the media. He took the time to answer all questions with honesty and sincerity.

What I Learned: Don’t big time. No matter how successful you are, don’t let it get to your head.

Tiger Woods – There’s no question that Woods is a larger than life athlete, known as much for his golfing abilities as his off-the-course exploits. After doing an interview with Woods following a round at The Barclays a few years back, I shook the golfer’s hand to thank him for answering my questions. He had the hardest handshake I’ve ever received in return. But he, like Brady, also acknowledged my appreciation. When we chatted a few days later, I could tell he remembered me.

What I Learned: Saying thank you sometimes catches people off guard, in a good way. Believe it or not, not every reporter thank athletes after interviews. When you show appreciation, it helps build a rapport for the future.

Derek Jeter – There are few athletes, let alone New York Yankees, who fans of both teams love. Derek Jeter is one of them. Whether it was speaking to the future Hall of Famer during his rehab stint in the minor leagues several years ago or discussing George Steinbrenner after his death, Jeter always brought it back to the fans. He is someone who completely understands that the fans’ support is what has contributed to his success on and off the field.

What I Learned: Care about your fans. They are the ones who can make or break your business.

Robert Griffin III – Griffin is the only one of the five that I have just a lone interaction with. It came three weeks ago when the Washington Redskins played the New York Giants. The quarterback hadn’t talked much in recent weeks after being benched by his head coach to save injury. It didn’t sit well with RGIII, who did his best to not show his disappointment. After the game, not one reporter approached Griffin — a report earlier that day described how sheltered from the media Griffin is. All except for me. Griffin was soft spoken, but took the time to answer all of my questions. We chatted for about a minute as he expressed his disappointment in the season, but always threw a positive in after a negative.

What I Learned: I learned two things in this situation: 1) Take chances. You never know how things may turn out unless you try. 2) Don’t let the tough times get you down. Always look towards the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.