Why Athletes Make Good Entrepreneurs

A.T. Gimbel shares three characteristics of athletes and how they may help you become a successful entrepreneur.

A.T. Gimbel
See Profile
June 1, 2022

Athletic traits that can help you win on and off the court

As a former athlete (albeit not a very good one), I love the many great life lessons learned while playing sports. When it comes to entrepreneurship, there are also many traits developed from sports that can make you an exceptional founder. Here are three characteristics of athletes and how they apply to entrepreneurship.

Overcoming failure

If you play sports, you are going to lose games. There has never been an undefeated World Series or NBA champion, only the 1972 Dolphins were an undefeated Super Bowl champ. No athlete completes 100% of their throws or makes 100% of their shots. In baseball, if you fail 7 out of 10 times at bat you can likely still make the Hall of Fame! Sports teaches you to not be afraid to fail and also to learn from it. Understand why you failed, make the adjustments, and get ready for the next game. The same thing applies to startups in testing ideas, quickly pivoting from failures, and getting ready for the next iteration.


Any athlete understands the importance of practice … except maybe Allen Iverson. You work on specific skills/drills to prepare you for the opportunity in the upcoming games. One of my favorite quotes is “luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” Athletes are prepared so they will be ready to make the shot when the opportunity arises. The foundation of practice builds the muscle memory necessary to execute in the game. The same thing holds for entrepreneurs - they work through the right process of doing customer discovery, finding authentic demand, working through product-market fit, which allows them to be ready to scale the business off that strong foundation.

Competitive intensity

Most athletes have a competitive intensity to win and work through challenges. If you watched The Last Dance with Michael Jordan, that is clearly apparent. The opportunity and challenge of competing drives them forward. The same can hold for entrepreneurship - the desire to prove your worth in getting the business off the ground, to build a better solution than competitors, and to scale a business and team to meet customer needs all leverage that same strong internal drive to compete and be successful.

There are many traits required to be a successful entrepreneur and nobody possesses all of them. Know your strengths, and surround yourself with a great team to fill in the gaps. For athletes, know that many of the things you learned in sports can help you become a great entrepreneur.

You might also enjoy...