Before I joined adidas four years ago, a profound, guiding light was my experience as a Division I athlete in college. I had the fortune of playing baseball for the University of Portland for four years from 2007 to 2011 and the life lessons I learned in that time have been invaluable in my career. Since I joined the company, I’ve been able to work on exciting initiatives like supporting the adidas Basketball strategy, driving financial decision-making with sports marketing assets and, most recently, working with the Global Originals Footwear product teams. It’s been an exciting journey thus far and I have so many different experiences and learnings to use as guidance and inspiration in my role. Because we are the brand with the 3-Stripes and baseball is a game of threes (3 outs, 3 strikes and you’re out…you get the point), I’ll boil down my experience into three parts:

Control the Control-ables

One lesson I learned early on was that it’s not just good enough to set goals; it’s about setting the right goals

In my sophomore year, I needed to be honest with myself and assess how I could improve my defense. The right goals are process- or action-oriented, not result-oriented. I didn’t have complete control over my fielding percentage, crazy things can happen when the ball is moving fast on the ground, but I could control how much I practiced fielding. I took an extra 250 ‘grounders’ (a ball hit on the ground) every day after practice and in the 206 times somebody hit the ball to me, I only had one ball bounce off my glove in my senior season…and it bothers me to this day!

It’s up to each of us to identify our weaknesses, think beyond the results to the processes/actions that influence those results, and then commit to improving in those processes/actions.

Be Gritty

I’ll never forget waking up at 6:00 am every other morning for an hour and a half of pain and misery lifting weights and running with my team. We’d start with an appetizer of squats and burpees, move to the main course of deadlifts and pull-ups, and then finish our suffering with a nice dessert of ten 400m sprints for time. Following this, I’d usually snap back into consciousness in time to make my 8:10 Auditing class, followed by Biblical Traditions, Cost Accounting, and Marine Science (my “easy” elective). This would be a full day for most college students and would most certainly warrant a three-hour nap in the afternoon. I did not have that luxury. My afternoon was spent at our field practicing from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. College baseball was a full-time job and we had to dig DEEP in order to get the most out of practice after starting our days the way we did.

I lean on these days to get through tough meetings and challenging days and weeks.

Putting in extra training sessions is part of what makes an athlete - constantly striving to be the best
Putting in extra training sessions is part of what makes an athlete – constantly striving to be the best

Leave a Legacy

More than anything, my greatest takeaway from college sports was the idea you should leave something for the next person in better shape than you found it.

Every day, challenge yourself to leave your job knowing that the company is better than when you arrived that morning.

Maybe one day that just means going to your group kitchen and cleaning up that area, maybe the next it’s moving to an exciting new role in a different team and getting your successor up to speed with a well-prepared onboarding. Maybe you even get to take on a leadership role – what will you do to leave that role in a better place than when you inherited it? Whatever it is you do that day or week, do it well and leave a legacy. While I was at the University of Portland, we went from winning only 15 games in my freshman year to winning 34 games in my junior year, achieving a Top 25 national ranking and nearly making the NCAA tournament. The amount of grit that went into that transformation was enormous by all of us associated with the team. We were committed to changing the entire culture of the program from one that was happy to get a win here and there to a program that expected to win every time we took the field. I am still incredibly proud of what we accomplished.

I’ll never forget that magical season and, with it, the early morning workouts and extra practice time.

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by Adam Openshaw 04.01.2016
Great Article Matt! I truly believe and agree with you. Spent four years playing and four years coaching before moving to business and you nailed it!
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