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Lessons Learned From My Daughter's Basketball Team Taught Me About Entrepreneurship


Lessons of entrepreneurship can be found all around us when we look closely enough, especially in the world of sports. After watching my daughter’s basketball team play over the years, I realized that the lessons they learn dribbling a ball with a goal of making shots can equally apply to the world of entrepreneurship.

I compiled a list of (10) takeaways from basketball that can apply to your growing business.

  1. Sometimes you have to labor harder for some battles over others.

    There are some basketball games that my daughter and her team are just whizzing by their opponents and making net. However, there are those teams that they labor and fight for each shot. They must heighten their defense and avoid he other team increasing their lead at all cost.

    In entrepreneurship, there are battles that require a heightened awareness of what your competitors are doing and ensuring that you are not being left behind. As companies approach their next revenue level, it requires more skill, collaboration, and discipline. It may have been easy to reach your first level of revenue, but the next level may require you to raise funds or put yourself out in the marketplace more. Don’t worry, the extra effort will be worthwhile.

2. Keep Pushing Even When You’re Down

We have all seen a team that is down and the time is against them, but they are still pushing to win. I always wonder what makes athletes keep fighting even when they know they are down and they won’t be able to win. Is it wanting to win with a respectful loss or the sheer desire to fight to the bitter end? Whatever it is, those are the best games to watch. The spectators respect their hustle and pure tenacity. Similarly in entrepreneurship, there are times when you are working hard and it may seem that no one is noticing. Be encouraged, you are building your skill and respect in the marketplace.

3. Be Aware of the Time on the Clock

The clock in basketball can be your friend or your worst enemy. There are times when my daughter’s team is down by six points but there are ten minutes left in the game. I often have hope that there is time left because they can come around. However, if there were up six points with ten minutes left, the other team could easily redeem themselves.

In business, we always have to be mindful of time, since there are some opportunities we will only get because of timing. Some potential customers may say no to us now but at another time it’s a perfect opportunity. Furthermore, there are certain seasons when customers are open to making certain purchases and if you don’t capitalize on those moments you have to sell your product at a deep discount. (Think candy makers selling their confectionaries around Valentine’s Day and Easter. Imagine if they didn’t carpe diem those times of year!)

Think of the industries that complement your industries and how you can gain customers. Perhaps you can pitch your life insurance business at a church or your restaurant. Maybe you can provide breakfast at a local staff meeting. Always be mindful of the time and opportunities you can seize.

4. Always Train and Be Ready

Malcolm Gladwell said that it takes 10,000 hours to fully master a subject. Basketball players and other athletes train constantly, so that they can be ready at each tournament. The better games occur when they anticipate their rivals’ moves and play with them in mind.

As entrepreneurs, we always have to be sensitive to the market, trends and what customers want. If we build our business without knowing the market and proper due diligence, we will always be ill-prepared for success.

5. Ask For Support and Give Support

Since basketball is a contact sport, players may fall quite a bit. But if you look closely, teammates are always helping each other up. Coaches may yell out, “Help her up.” It builds sportsmanship and team support when they look out for each other. Besides, you never know when you may be the person who needs support.

In business, I have learned early on that no man is an island. We need to support each other and to always be ready to mentor those coming up. Look around, is there anyone who needs a hand to get to the next level? Could you carry an upcoming business’s product in your retail location? Could you provide someone with a contact or advice? I’ve learned over the years, when you help others, it comes back to you bountifully. Try to do it today!

6. Foul Play Will Cost You

I was never an athlete nor was I ever into spots but I genuinely enjoy watching my daughter play basketball. However, not a day goes by when I’m not asking what the the referee means when he blows a whistle points to a player. I know that there are a host of rules I don’t fully understand. However, one rule I know for sure is to not hit the opponent, which can cause a foul. A foul can allow your competitor to score two free throws. You can also be fouled out after five fouls.

In business foul play will cost you as well. You can choose to build your company cooperatively or you can step on competitors to get ahead. You can find ethical ways to source your products and pay your employers fair wages or you can find the cheapest way to build your business at all cost.

You make the choice!

7. Listen to Your Coach

Our daughter has had great coaches over the years who have taught her her a great deal about the game, techniques and ways to setup plays. However, I have noticed that coaching does not end at practice. Coaching continues throughout the game, when you see the coaches encouraging the team on areas that they should focus, which opponent they should guard, and when they should increase their defense.

In business, you need a coach as well. Sometimes that may be in the form of a business coach, board of directors, mentors, or a trusted friend. If you don’t have any of those secure resources that help you get to the next level, books, podcasts, journals, magazines and various websites can point you in the right direction. Above all, apply what you have learned and not just devour the information.

8. Always Be On The Lookout For An Opening

One of the most painful games my daughter’s team lost was when the other team saw an opening and made a shot seconds before the game ended. Ouch!

In business there are always openings but we have to keep our eyes open to see them. That may mean to partner with a complimentary brand or build your audience in places no one is looking.

Seek out organizations, people or professions that can provide you with leads in a co-beneficial way.

9. Be Quick On Your Feet So That You Can Always Pivot

In the game of basketball, it’s not a matter of if you will pivot, it’s when. Great basketball players are quick on their feet and can maneuver in between walls of defense.

While building our business, be mindful of times you may have to move quickly in another direction. Long standing business have always pivoted even if they seem subtle. Remember when Netflix built their business model around delivering DVDs to homes on a subscription basis? Do you remember when Apple I-Pods were all the rage? Google Hangouts will split into two separate apps.

Pivots require a keen sense of industry trends while listening intently to your customers. Doing both will enable agile entrepreneurs to maneuver through defense tactics of their competitors.

10. Championships Are Won In the Mind First


Have you ever witnessed a basketball game when the team gave up? The opponent’s lead was really high and their wasn’t enough time on the clock. I have witnessed this situation and it’s pretty disappointing and not for the reasons you may think. It’s disappointing because you know the “losing” team’s potential and they just stopped fighting and trying. Reasons could consist of the other team’s height or skill. “They were way taller.” or “You know that they are number one in the state?”

None of that matters when you’re playing. Stephen Curry, one of the top basketball players of our times is just 6’3. Yes, that’s tall but LeBron James is 6’8. Kevin Durant is 6’9 and Klay Thompson is 6’7. What if Stephen Curry said, “LeBron James is way taller than me. I don’t have a choice.” He would have never beat him in the NBA Finals.

Championships are won in the mind first. Don’t focus on your competitors or the business owner who went to a better school, better credentials, better looks, etc. Focus on your skill and believe that you can win. Then, go out and play to win!

Christine Mills