Student-Athletes as Entrepreneurs: A Natural Fit
Creator: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications
Look up the word compete and you may find a number of different definitions, but each with similar meanings.
No matter how you define it, competition (and therefore profit) is the most important fuel for top athletes. Winning is one way of measuring success, but winning is also the end product of the learning and growth process.
Even if Lehigh student athletes will not be able to compete in their respective sport this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some are participating in the new Homefield Advantage program – a partnership between Lehigh Athletics and the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation (Lehigh’s leading Organization to promote entrepreneurial thinking and acting).
“The pandemic has been challenging for all of us, especially our student athletes who are mourning the loss of their ability to compete in a sport they love,” said Julie Ammary, director of Athletics Leadership Development. “Helping our athletes find ways to compete intellectually and in group dynamics can give them better insight into how to achieve that spirit when they get back to their physical game.”
The partnership between athletics and the Baker Institute was a natural fit for both sides.
“I did some CliftonStrengths work with the Baker Institute’s Hatchery program in May and as a group we started talking about a possible partnership,” said Katie Guynn, director of academic services for students and athletes. “One of the things we love about the Baker Institute is that they are always looking for opportunities and opportunities. You heard the announcement that our sports will not be competing this fall and wanted to know if this was a way for us to work together Idea for this collaboration knowing that student athletes are naturally competitive. ”
As Ammary said, “Competitiveness is good for entrepreneurship and we got on board.”
Lehigh Athletics jumped on board for a unique learning experience.
In the virtual program that has already started, 18 student athletes are working in teams to make the advantages of safe living conditions tangible for more people. The challenge for the student athletes is to develop entrepreneurial solutions to problems related to accommodation and living … specifically to develop solutions for affordable, sustainable and barrier-free living through innovation (in areas such as materials, politics, housing and more).
The ultimate goal of the program, as written by the Baker Institute and agreed by Lehigh Athletics, is:
- Show and celebrate the natural parallels between athletes and entrepreneurs to both students and the outside audience.
- Give athletes the opportunity to explore their entrepreneurial mindset and skills through meaningful real-world problems.
- Create a strong bond between Lehigh Athletics and the Baker Institute.
- Offer alumni athletes another channel to make meaningful connections with student athletes.
- Learn from the athletics executives how to teach startup teams to adopt the dynamism and culture of a successful sports team.
Since 2017, the Baker Institute has been thinking about the parallels between athletes and entrepreneurs, which include competitiveness, coaching ability, discipline, action-oriented approach, strategic thinking, mastery of topic / game and playtime risk / reward assessment.
“From January to June 2017, I was temporarily stationed in San Francisco and introduced the newly established Lehigh @ NasdaqCenter,” said Lisa Getzler, Executive Director of the Baker Institute. “During this time we worked with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center – our new partner in San Francisco – developed an entrepreneurship training program for the 49ers and learned a lot from an entrepreneurship training program with Lehigh Athletics to bring such a program to Lehigh.
“Once it was clear that there would be no competition in the 2020 fall season, we went to work designing the Homefield Advantage program that had a greater chance of success on your home pitch because of the concept,” you would resonate with athletes, ”she continued.
“We introduced it to Julie Ammary and her team … and here we are.”
The current program includes nearly 20 student athletes of all ages and majors (see the full list of participants at the end of this story). While entrepreneurship is only for business students, the Baker Institute invites students from all colleges to explore ways to create sustainable change through value-based solutions with an entrepreneurial approach.
While the nuts and bolts of building a business are rooted in the science of business creation, an entrepreneurial mindset is a way of addressing problems in the world that need solving and is important in all areas of life, including athletics. The students involved in Homefield Advantage, as in most Baker Institute programs, represent all of Lehigh’s undergraduate colleges.
“Baker programs embrace the idea of a ‘one bedroom schoolhouse’ and Homefield Advantage is another holdover from that,” said Getzler. “The learning that takes place in such an environment is much richer when shared by a variety of majors, age groups, and in this case sports teams.
“Also, diversity in all forms is critical to innovation,” she continued. “Different experiences in the world lead to very different ideas of how a problem could be solved, which leads to more innovative, more creative solutions.”
Even if most student athletes did not have a business background in the program, they already had a foundation even if they didn’t know it.
Through sport alone, they have already trained their minds to think critically.
“When student athletes link the strategic thinking and instincts they bring to their sport to the core principles of an entrepreneurial mindset, magic happens,” said Getzler. “It comes down to identifying challenges as opportunities to create or gain value and how to best do it. The Athletics Leadership Development team helps student athletes tie this mindset into its five pillars.”
There is more to the pillars.
“Student athletes might almost have an advantage because [their background]? The answer is a resounding yes, “said Getzler. In fact, the Baker team is hoping to learn how to teach startups to adopt the dynamism and culture of a successful sports team.”
The disappointment that student-athletes were unable to compete this fall was real and understandable. When the opportunity to compete a number of student-athletes applied. Applications were due on September 16, admission on the 18th with orientation about a week later.
The program other than academic credit is not the same as a field, court, or pool competition.
But the five pillars remain very effective.
“There are many ways to practice self-consciousness and to lead with personal integrity by engaging with their individual strengths in large and small groups and evaluating their reliability as a ‘good teammate’ towards their colleagues, ”said Ammary competitive Nature intellectually by calling their creativity and innovation to solve a problem.
“That toughness The need to identify your comfort zone and then choose to go beyond that is all part of the process, “she continued.” And, perhaps most significantly, learning about Team-first mentality through group dynamics and selfless leadership are the focus of the program. “
About halfway through the eight-week program, Getzler likes what she sees.
“So far we have seen in particular their competitive spirit, their ability to train and their self-motivation. They actively seek feedback and act on this feedback in order to progress productively.”
At the end of the program, you guessed it, there will be a competition between the three teams.
“The pitch competition will take place during Spirit Week in November,” said Getzler. “Over the course of the program, we compiled a list of Lehigh alumni who were both athletes and innovators / entrepreneurs during their time at Lehigh. Some join us as trainers, others as expert guests and some as competition judges. “
While the goal of the program is to learn and grow over the eight weeks (like the process of training and practicing with their sports teams), the experience could also produce tangible results (much like winning on the field).
“Homefield Advantage may very well provide viable, entrepreneurial solutions to the problems they focus on, such as access to the continuum of home ownership, sustainable housing practices and the implicit racism experienced by those living in formerly red lines,” said Getzler.
In the future, both Lehigh Athletics and the Baker Institute hope to continue Homefield Advantage.
“We are grateful to learn from and with the Baker Institute as we work together to provide fantastic development opportunities for student-athletes,” said Ammary.
“This is an opportunity to build something meaningful and sustainable at a time when we as a university are facing enormous challenges,” said Getzler. “Entrepreneurs are always looking for problems or challenges as an opportunity to create value.
“We practice what we preach.”
Lehigh Student Athletes are the benefactors who not only improve when they get back into their sport, but also for lifelong leadership … which, after all, is Lehigh Athletics’ mission.
Lehigh Student-Athletes in Homefield Advantage
Mackenzie Anton ’21 – women’s football
Jake Betlow ’23 – Men’s Basketball
Sarah Bonthuis ’23 – field hockey
Bridget Casey ’22 – women’s football
Jaelynn Chesson ’22 – softball
Reed Fenton ’23 – men’s basketball
Anna Harvey ’23 – women’s basketball
Judah Hicks ’22 – Men’s Lacrosse
Mackenzie Kramer ’24 – Women’s Basketball
Nick Lynam ’23 – swimming and diving for men
Jan Maciejewski ’22 – football
Marina Mendez ’23 – Ladies Golf
Gabriella Nori ’22 – softball
Miranda Royds ’21 – Women’s Football / Athletics
Ryelle Shuey ’23 – women’s football
Nigel Summerville ’23 – soccer ball
Jake Stafford ’23 – men’s swimming and diving
Evan Taylor ’23 – men’s basketball