Little League Lessons for Big League Startups

A.T. Gimbel, father of 3, shares key lessons learned from his kids’ experiences with sports and how they can apply to starting a business.

A.T. Gimbel
See Profile
October 23, 2019

From the ball-field to the boardroom, things you can learn to grow your business

With three children who love to play sports, I am constantly running between different sports practices and games coaching my kids. It is truly a rewarding experience and something I thoroughly enjoy. Along the way, there are lessons that sports teach us that when applied correctly can also help us improve our business. There are many of the standard cliches such as skating to where the puck will be, you’ll never steal second with your foot on first, etc. but here are a few other areas to apply.

You win some, you lose some. Some are tied, some get cancelled.

If you play long enough, there will be games you win and games you lose. There are also games that get cancelled for normal occurrences (i.e. rain) as well as unforeseen things (i.e. fog, no lights). It is easy to get lost in the short-term results (and many-a-kid has shed tears over losing a game), but instead focus on the long-term results. There are many times you win games you should have lost and times you lose games you should have won. Instead, find ways to improve, refine the process, and stay focused on the longer term goals. True success is evaluated over a longer time horizon than just one game. For a startup, this means not getting too high/low from one deal, one quarter’s results, or even one failed venture. Keep improving and move on to play the next game.


Contrary to what Allen Iverson may think, you get better by practicing. Doing it over and over again until you no longer have to think about the task, but can pay attention to the field and bigger picture. It becomes part of your muscle memory. There are no shortcuts, just continued persistence and hard work to get better every day. Nobody becomes a superstar athlete overnight, but it is amazing to see how much kids who practice improve from the beginning of the season to the end. The same applies for your startup. You get better at sales by practicing your pitch and message. You get better at marketing by testing different approaches and refining. Sitting in a room thinking about what to do is not practicing; instead, get out in front of customers and keep practicing with your pitch and your product to help make sure you are helping solve their problems. You will get better with practice.

Life is not fair. Control what you can control.

How many times have there been bad calls in games. It may have cost you a point, a game, or even a trip to the Super Bowl (i.e. last year’s Saints). While it is easy to want to blame the referee or opponent, a more productive approach is to move on and keep playing. Rarely does an official change a judgment call because you yell more. Similarly in the real world, there are many times something “unfair” happens to your company. I love the quote “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Move on and make the best of the situation. Don’t let one bad call drag you down and use the time negatively and unproductive, instead, use it positively to move forward with the next thing. If you are the coach or CEO, remember your team is watching and they will reflect your attitude (whether positive or negative).

Sports is full of wonderful lessons around teamwork, persistence, and adversity; definitely apply some of those same lessons to your business!

You might also enjoy...