Winning mentality: Athletics and lessons in leadership

Athletic participation – from youth sports to college athletics – has consistently been proven to positively impact physical and mental well-being. A study conducted by Ernst & Young found that 94% of female C-Suite leaders participated in sports, and “sport participation helps girls grow up healthy and confident, helps young female leaders rise, and helps C-suite leaders succeed.” A second study from the Institute of Leadership found that “ex-athletes, on the whole, achieved higher career status and greater levels of leadership responsibilities than non-athletes.”

So, not only do athletes realize physical benefits like improved cardiovascular endurance and hand-eye coordination, but also, and arguably more importantly, they learn critical “soft” skills. These traits –teamwork, determination, resilience, confidence and leadership – last a lifetime, and set former athletes up for success when their career on the field ends, but their career in the workplace begins.

At Point32Health, we see first-hand the many ways leaders, and their organization benefit from athletic participation. Here are the stories from just a few of our leaders who have hung up their uniforms, but continue to use the skills they work to guide and empower healthier lives for everyone.

Kate Wallis – Vice President, Health Equity & Clinical Innovation

Cross Country, Crew

“Crew is a sport that requires focus, dedication, humility, trust, and teamwork, all values that we aspire to emulate and surround ourselves with. In crew there can be no ego if you want to be successful, and you truly have to capitalize on everyone’s collective strengths for the success of the group. These are very transferrable attributes to the work and approach we all aspire to do every day.”

“Being on a competitive team in college and balancing that with a degree such as nursing required me to prioritize and make choices in order to be successful at both. Playing a team sport also teaches you about group dynamics and what is needed to achieve success as a group, and these are skills that, in my opinion, are not taught in class or a textbook but rather through lived experience.”

Urcel Fields – President, Government Markets

Basketball, Track & Field, Wrestling

“I love sports and pushing my mind and body to edge. For me, when I pass through the other side of the journey, I am stronger, sharper, and mentally ready to accomplish anything and tackle obstacles in front of goals.”

“Sports taught me discipline, consistency, teamwork and leadership. I was a point guard, and I learned to play close attention to how I could make the players around me better. That taught me as a leader that you have to constantly evaluate if you’re providing the appropriate support for your team and putting them in position to be successful. And that frame of reference allows you to celebrate their wins and provide compassionate coaching to help everyone achieve a better performance.”

Katie Catlender – COO

Field Hockey, Swimming

“I think sports give you the ability to see beyond yourself. You learn to see the bigger picture and how to first support the good of the organization, and then think about your role in that. [Sports] gives you the ability to take a step back and realize the importance of having both physical and mental health at the forefront of how you show up and put your best foot forward every single day. And when you don’t, you have a good awareness of how to lean on others.”

“I love competition, but I don’t compete to compete with others. It is an important distinction between someone who’s competitive to win for themselves versus someone who’s competitive to lift up the people around them. As leaders, we want to win for Point32Health not necessarily because we need to be the best, but because we want the organization to be the best. And that, I think, is an important leadership trait, especially given how our organization and our industry is changing and evolving.”

Cain Hayes – CEO


“Playing baseball and really any sport, teaches you so many critical skills, such as discipline, teamwork, a strong work ethic and how to deal with both successes and failure. These lessons have guided me in both my personal and professional life, and have helped shape how I approach my role as a leader both at Point32Health and in the communities we serve.”