My sporting life has been defined by two very different disciplines, ballet and basketball. Following in my mother’s footsteps ballet was my first active passion and from the sofa I joined my father and brother in supporting Los Angeles Lakers and the national Italian team.
At 17 during my exchange year in the USA the tables turned with my height attracting attention from the high school basketball team. I knew a lot about the game and its rules, but I had spent zero minutes on the court. Common sense told me to kindly reject the offer, but instead a little voice said ‘What’s the point saying you can’t do it if you don’t even try it?’
I’m glad I listened to that little voice as I quickly realized there were so many connections between two sports which look so different. Ballet and basketball taught me a lot not only about myself but also about how to face new professional experiences.
Here are three learnings I took from the stage and from the court to my internship at adidas:
1. Patience and practice pay off
How many hours is a ballet dancer practicing a pirouette in front of the mirror to reach the perfect form? Shoulders down, body straight, eyes fixed on a spot, weight placed on the right leg, arms at the right height, to give the perfect balance.
I remember repeating that one single movement over and over again while on the court I spent hours shooting from the free throw line… my coach would guide me through the technique, without ball, with my eyes closed, just to help me feel the movement. He wouldn’t let me go home until I made at least 30 free throws in a row.
The patience and practice I give to ballet and basketball I replicate at the office. In an internship, as in sports, everything’s a process. One of my first tasks was to write a short story on a new shoe release. I did my research, wrote it, made my revisions and handed it in. When my mentor gave it back to me I was struggling to find my text amidst red comments.
I kept writing: small announcements, brand news, emails, feature stories. The amount of red corrections started to reduce and my confidence grew. I was working on my technique, I started feeling it, step by step. When discouraged, I would think about my ballet and basketball lessons: be patient, things are not going to be perfect the first time (not even the second or the third) but if you keep your concentration and practice, you’ll be amazed at how satisfying the result is.
2. Fail but don’t freeze
Mistakes are part of the process. If you dance and forget your choreography, you can’t just stop. You need to be fast and creative, improvise and just keep dancing. The show must go on. If you miss a pass during the basketball game, it’s not the end of the world, but you better get the next rebound and keep the game going. Look for the ball, try to catch it, see who’s controlling it. The team and the coach count on you.
During your internship, you will make mistakes: forget to send an important email, miss a deadline, misunderstand the task. Been there, done that. The important thing is: don’t freeze. It’s ok to fail, everybody does. But here at adidas I learned one thing – if you fail, fail fast and keep moving. I can assure you, your team is going to be very supportive and accept your mistakes but they will appreciate if you understand this, learn from them and don’t let that happen again. Keep the ball rolling.
3. Open your mind and don’t let insecurity stop you
Your mindset sometimes your worst enemy. When my American friend came to me with her proposal to join the basketball team, my first thought was: “I’ve danced my whole life, I can’t just start basketball at the age of 17”. But I took the plunge and after some weird dance moves on the court (passing the ball spinning like a real ballerina), it turned out that the coordination I had gained during many years of ballet helped me learn basketball moves pretty fast. My coach was impressed. That encouraged me to try to be better every training and every game and not to be afraid to shoot.
When I started at adidas, my biggest fear was to brainstorm with my team. I thought that there was no way that my ideas could be as good as those of my experienced colleagues. I couldn’t even try it.“If you never try it, you’ll never make it”, my inner voice was whispering. I slowly started to participate and realized that my team appreciated that and supported me. I’ve learned that the initial idea may come from one person but the result is more often a process, it comes from collaboration, from different voices and ideas heard and combined. But if you remain still and silent, you can’t contribute. Speak out. Give it a try. Shoot. Don’t let insecurity stop you.
Opportunities are everywhere: sometimes they come your way, sometimes you have to seek them out, more often you understand them at a later stage in your life. Only with my first business experience have I realized the power of my two great sporting loves – ballet and basketball. I now stand up, grab every new opportunity, I am solution-oriented and I never shy away from building my own journey.