I played basketball in college so it’s probably expected that March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. But this year is especially exciting with the rise in popularity, media coverage and sponsorship of the women’s game. In late 2023, forecasts predicted that women’s sports would generate more than $1B in revenue in 2024. That’s a valuation 3x more than what it was in 2021 and it’s a forecast made well before Iowa’s Caitlin Clark started smashing records for women’s and men’s basketball.  

And while I could talk forever on Iowa vs. LSU vs. South Carolina, the bottom line is that the rapid growth in the space is long overdue. Generations of female athletes before this share in the celebration of this moment – everyone is watching women’s sports and I’m here for it. 

That being said, I’ve been an athlete all my life, and I’m convinced that approaching business as an athlete drives stronger performance and better outcomes. Gender aside, all athletes share in the love of competition. That love and the pursuit of goals, striving to get better and the need to achieve, all set you up for success. 

I’ve been around long enough to witness cycles of personal and peer success. Now there will always be cycles, but when an individual is consistently successful and I hear someone say, “he/she is so lucky,” I immediately think…WRONG. Luck doesn’t have anything to do with it. As my mom used to say before games “You make your own luck.” Winning doesn’t come from luck. Success doesn’t come through luck. True, consistent success comes from drive, hard work, resilience and teamwork. And all are learned behaviors that become conditioned over time within athletes. 

Consider an athlete’s love of competition. Competitors are motivated to work hard and to achieve goals. Do they love to win? Sure. But as Tennessee Coach Pat Summit famously said, “Winning is not the point. Wanting to win is the point. Never giving up is the point. Never being satisfied with what you’ve done is the point.” An athlete’s dedication to improving creates discipline, focus and a strong work ethic. These are non-negotiables when it comes to driving business success and building leaders. Wanting to compete is a powerful driving force that once unleashed can make any goal a reality. 

An athlete’s drive also builds mental toughness. You cannot win every game, match or race. You will face setbacks, losses or injuries. Athletes understand that you’ll get beat and things won’t go your way – that’s part of the game. But their motivation is stronger than their fear and it builds resilience. The same way that in business you may not get the job, secure the deal or win the bid, but you need adaptability and resilience to keep going. You need to be able to challenge your limits, push yourself to improve, ignore the doubters and not quit when things get tough. 

Before she passed away, Coach Summit also shared what she’d remember the most about her career "I won 1,098 games, and eight national championships, and coached in four different decades. But what I see are not the numbers. I see their faces.” 

Teamwork. You need it. No one achieves success on their own. One of my favorite coaches of all time lived by the mantra,“Everything we do, we’re gonna do together.” And it’s true. Win together. Lose together. Bring each other up. Keep it real when you need to get your rear in gear. Match each other’s efforts. Pick up your teammates when they need it. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of – and build – some pretty amazing teams. The mutual respect, the camaraderie and the trust that exists make you feel unstoppable, and it’s a bond that you’ll never forget. It’s the people that make the difference. 

That level of commitment to each other, that type of team, is what we aspire to have at Gatesman. I like to talk a lot about how important it is to do hard things, about maximizing what we think we can do and leveling up when we achieve new goals. It’s hard work, but it’s fulfilling work. We trust in our teammates, we bring heart and we expect the best you can do on any given day. It’s all a part of the process of building towards success. 

I learned a long time ago that legacy isn’t just about wins, losses, points, steals, medals and trophies. The games end. It’s about what you give back and who you lift up. It’s about the people you inspire, the ambition you celebrate, the potential you grow to be the next generation of powerful leaders – on the floor and off. I hope #TeamGatesman continues to exceed its potential. I hope we continue to hate losing more than we love winning. I hope we continue to push and motivate each other to get better, but most of all, I hope we continue to believe in a vision that if we choose to compete, we can do the best work of our lives together.

About Gatesman:

With offices in Pittsburgh and Chicago, Gatesman offers expertise in strategy/branding, advertising, public relations, social media, digital and analytics. Gatesman is a partner in AMIN Worldwide, an alliance of over 50 independent marketing agencies, and IPREX, a global communications network. Gatesman acquired Quest Fore in 2014 and Noble Communications in 2017.