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Why Body Language Is So Powerful In Sports And In Your Career

Dylan Buell / Stringer

I recall many times as a player grasping for breath and putting my hand over my chest glancing at my coach to signal that I needed to be subbed out. After running up and down the court, trying to stop my opponent as a defender, while simultaneously trying to score as an offender, I was gassed. I could have yelled at the bench that I needed a breather, but that would be counterproductive and require more energy, more energy I simply did not have.

In sports, often times messages are conveyed through body language. Whether it is by calling a play with your hand, noticing a defender is tired because they’re clenching their shorts gasping for air or even noticing a teammate is not their usual confident selves by spotting a somber attitude mixed with a blank expression. So much can be read without being said. 

Body language is a universal language and can affect your attitude and how you’re perceived by others.

Body language is a universal language and can affect your attitude and how you’re perceived by others. Simple things such as upright posture, a warm sincere smile when engaging with someone for the first time and making eye contact when conversing can have a profound effect. As a former student athlete, I recall the look on my teammates' face when they knew that they could zip pass their defender for an easy score. The look meant to get them the ball and get out the way. I had grown accustomed to reading body language in the sports world, but it didn’t translate well to the real world. 

In my years of college courses, I still had not mastered the art of giving off ‘positive vibes.’ I would often sit in the classroom with my arms crossed, inattentive while scribbling notes on my binder to help pass the time. The aspect of actively listening and possessing positive body language was not truly understood until I got into the real world.

Prior to one of my first interviews, I remembered a text from my father that read, “Go in there with confidence and the job is yours.” Smile often, give a firm handshake, nod to show you’re in agreement, and sit up straight to show your eagerness were all things he emphasized to win over the hiring manager. Even though I did not land a position after my first job interview, I received a follow up email from the manager highlighting my professionalism and wishing me well on my job hunt; all was not lost.

Non-verbal communication can help build relationships and even welcome difficult conversations. Just think, someone is more inclined to speak to you if you’re smiling opposed to having your arms permanently crossed with a look of defeat on your face. Always stay true to yourself. No one is telling introverts to shake every stranger's hand and to skip down the halls yelling they’re happy to world, but there are certain habits everyone should practice on a daily basis. For example, research has shown that if you have a phone screen, you should dress up and smile when responding to the interviewer to convey a positive can-do attitude.

The saying holds true that misery loves company, but good energy is even more contagious.

Positive body language can rub off on others and be a catalyst for productivity. The saying holds true that misery loves company, but good energy is even more contagious. All in all, former athletes have put their bodies through the rigor of sports - how much effort does it take to have good posture and throw on a smile every now again? There are many uncontrollable factors in the world; however, body language is something you are in total in charge of, so act accordingly.

Layden Williams is a former collegiate basketball player at Catawba College. After his playing days were over, Layden earned his MBA and currently resides in Charlotte, NC where he is an up-and-coming author and compliance professional in the banking industry. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.