For over 20 years now I have been working in Global Social & Environmental Affairs at adidas. I helped found the function within our company and have watched it grow from a handful of people to a team of 70+ spread all over the world. Today I lead the team towards one common goal: to make our company sustainable. The years have taught me to take a deep breath and persevere: it is a marathon, not a sprint.

The adidas and Reebok brands have built trust and credibility – fundamental in sports – through our commitment to helping athletes perform at their best and in the most sustainable footwear and apparel. We are grateful to be able to inspire our consumers to join us on our journey to become a sustainable company. We are at mile 1 but we have the unconditional passion to lead the race, picking up milestones along the way such as our presence in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices for the past 18 years.

Coach is holding a field hockey stick and is giving a speech to young female athletes huddled around him.
Just like my commitment to driving sustainability, my passion for field hockey is decades long.
The coach is high-fiving his female players.
The teams I’ve played with and coached have always challenged me to find train harder and find that winning edge.
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You might ask how comfortable I feel taking this long-term approach and wouldn’t it be better if I could click my fingers and make it happen? However I approach my professional life in the same way I tackle my sports passion – field hockey.

As a player and then a coach of many teams, it was a natural transition to apply my on-field experiences and game rules to my job.

These are five learnings I’ve taken from field hockey to the office.

1. Never stop training

There is always the potential to do better, whether you focus on your physical or technical skills. Take training as serious as the game. Ask your teammates and coaches how you can improve your performance and take their feedback to become better. Over the years the company’s sustainability program has been shaped by active listening, acting and engaging with critical internal and external stakeholders.

2. To win, the team comes first

It is not always the star players that win games. It is much more about the team that has a line-up that’s ready to use its hard and soft skills in the best possible way. Organization makes the difference. My team is an amazing group of diverse people with impressive skill sets, cultural background and expertise that always work together.

The team is huddled and the image moves as they raise their arms up in a cheer.

3. Have a goal for the season

Do not start a new season without being absolutely clear on what you want to achieve. This gives you focus and passion. The development of our sustainability program has always followed clear goals, targets and milestones which we publicly report on.

4. Be agile and flexible

It is important to have a game plan but also to read the game of your opponents. Be fast and agile in adjusting tactics. Our sustainability program has always been responsive to ad-hoc issues without giving up executing on long-term strategies and deliverables.

5. Celebrate successes and learn from defeats

Victories are even sweeter when you celebrate them together. Include all team members without leaving anyone out. The same applies when you analyze why things didn’t go so well. Review the performance of all players. On our journey to become a sustainable company we always discover things which we could do better. The journey never ends and once again it’s back to training!

Coach is smiling at the camera while demonstrating a proper field hockey stance with the stick and ball.
Unconditional passion will help you take the lead and continue to push what's possible.

How do you bring your sporting lessons to your professional life? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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by Markus Hoerr 11.10.2017
Very good article. From my experience I would add (not necessary related to sustainability, though):
• Stamina
• Self-discipline
• Dare to maneuver yourself or your team outside comfort zones to explore new horizons or reach new levels
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by Frank Markus Hoerr 12.10.2017
Your additions are absolutely true. I like them.
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by Aileen McManamon 24.10.2017
My lifelong passion has been baseball, which is a sport that accommodates players being skilled at one or more of the five critical skills required (below) but not all of them. This puts the entire team in the mindset of appreciating what their teammates bring to the game while understanding it's others' jobs to 'pick them up' in those places where they are not as strong. It's a sport that inherently accommodates 'failure' (in that a .333 batting average is great) and that includes stats /recognition for incredible efforts that contribute to a larger goal (an at-bat that forces the opposing pitcher to throw 10 pitches to get the batter out, eg which may force the pitcher out of the game earlier than anticipated).
I like to think that this has informed my approach in working with and managing team members. Where there is conflict, coaching them to see the positive contributions of a colleague above their shortcomings, or taking a good thorough look at how the components of a team fit together to achieve the end game.

I often look for former athletes when hiring, as I feel they bring these, or the lessons you've cited above, to the table. Recognizing that the first priority is to bring preparation and thei best effort to the day, and the ability to accept that on certain days that may not be enough, but that tomorrow is another opportunity to get a win.
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by Frank Aileen McManamon 25.10.2017
This is an excellent take-away from your sports life. Many thanks for sharing this.
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Nina Weihrauch
Nina Weihrauch | Editor Aileen McManamon 14.11.2017
Hi Aileen,

thank you for sharing your own take on the topic.
An athlete's mindset is much more than an attitude during a sports training session or a game, it's how we think and act 24/7. This article might be interesting for you as well:https://www.gameplan-a.com/2016/10/looking-for-athletes-at-work-make-fitness-part-of-their-day/.

All the best,

Nina
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by Selcuk Buyukozer 27.10.2017
Very nice article and photos!
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