Chris Paul pumped gas. David Johnson cleaned dorm rooms. J.J. Watt delivered pizzas.
Many of the world’s best athletes worked some very mundane jobs at one point or another. And while those jobs might not seem too glamorous, I can guarantee you they taught those athletes a lot about sports and life. I believe all high school student-athletes can benefit from a part-time job. Not being handed some cushy gig for a couple days, but actually going out, applying for a job, obtaining one and working it for a considerable period of time.
Carl Lewis has nine Olympic gold medals and he credits his high school job at McDonald’s with honing his attention to detail. “Timing (was) very important,” Lewis says of his long-ago job at the Golden Arches. “You couldn’t let the fries get cold. If I was 10 seconds off (during a race), I’d have no gold medals.”
It may be for 10 hours a week. It may be just for a summer or an offseason. But there’s real lasting value in working a part-time job during your teenage years. Here are four things I believe a part-time job can teach a high school athlete about sports and life.
1. An Appreciation for the Dirty Work
Before he owned several Burger King franchises, former NBA star Caron Butler worked at one as a teen. He said it gave him an appreciation of the business from “the janitorial spot all the way through the management side.”
When you get a part-time job, you become a part of a new team. That team performing at a high level depends on everyone doing their job. Sometimes, that job may be dirty work. A spilled soft drink right in front of the counter at a fast food restaurant needs to be cleaned up so customers can give cashiers their orders, for example.
In sports and in life, success is going to require you to do some things that you don’t enjoy. A part-time job helps a teen learn how to do the work they don’t love and still do it at a high level. This is critical to becoming great in any endeavor. And enduring the most disliked aspects of a part-time job can also help the “dirty work” you have to do for your sport seem a whole lot better.
No matter how much I disliked winter conditioning, it was always better than cleaning up after other human beings! Respect the dirty work, and your work ethic will skyrocket.
2. Learning to Work With a Boss You Don’t Always Agree With
My first jobs were in restaurants as a busboy and host. The management for these jobs frequently turned over and was not of the highest quality. However, even if I don’t look back on my former bosses fondly, I believe a part-time job helps a young student-athlete learn how to deal with coaches and/or teachers they may not always necessarily get along with.
Having a meltdown just because you don’t agree with a superior shows a lack of resilience. Of course we all want amazing coaches and teachers, but the reality is sometimes you’re going to have to deal with the hand you’re dealt.
Furthermore, having a boss will help you learn how to take criticism and instruction. Even the best coaches are going to critique you and expect you to take orders. If you can’t handle it, you’re not putting yourself in position to grow.
3. Working With an Unorthodox Team
The types of part-time gigs you can land as a teen will often put you on a “team” with a wide range of characters. You may not like all these people. I can almost guarantee that you won’t. But to do your job, you’re going to have to work with them. This is a valuable life lesson, as you’re not always going to be best friends with every teammate and every co-worker in your future. Can you work through that? Can you still achieve team goals despite that?
Being a part of that part-time job “team” will only bolster your communication skills and help you understand the responsibilities that come with being a part of a team. If you want to be a good employee, you can’t be selfish. You can’t blow off assignments. You can’t just not show up. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have won so many Super Bowls by making “Do Your Job” their religion. Accountability can take you a long way in this world.
4. The Value of $100
This one may sound cliche, but earning your own money will absolutely give you a new appreciation for the value of a buck. It will help you appreciate your parents and the money they spend on you and your sports even more. It will help you be more frugal with your money and gain a deeper respect for the things you purchase with your money. And who doesn’t want some extra spending cash?
The academic workload for high school students seems to grow year after year, and young athletes no doubt have a lot on their plates. However, working a part-time job, even if it’s just for a summer, can teach so many valuable lessons they might not necessarily learn inside a classroom or out on a practice court.
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