From the Hardcourt to the C-Suite: The Leadership Lessons I Learned from Team Sports

Katharine Loveland

According to a study by Ernst & Young, there is one trait that is shared by 94% of women who hold C-suite level positions. PepsiCO CEO Indra Nooyi has it. So does former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Meg Whitman. Elevance Health CEO Gail Koziara Boudreaux and Sheex CEO Michelle Marciniak possess it as well.

So, what is this trait? These women are all former athletes.

We have long known about the physical and mental health benefits of team sports. What the Ernst & Young study showed was that women who were high school and college athletes are also being coached on how to be leaders in the business world. From hardened work ethics to strong problem-solving skills to enhanced management abilities, these women come equipped to win in today’s workforce.

My college basketball career at Dartmouth College—and later during a professional stint overseas—played a significant role in developing the leadership skills I utilize every day. Although leaders do develop such skills in other ways, participation in sports provided me with multiple opportunities to overcome challenges, test personal limits, and hone my competitive spirit. Here is what I learned …

  • Teamwork. Playing basketball taught me that leadership is about building relationships that drive people to achieve a common goal. By depending on their team members’ experience and skillsets, praising individual successes and focusing on the big picture, the best leaders inspire those around them to achieve greater success.
  • Communication. Effective verbal and nonverbal communication are an integral part of a successful organization. It ensures team members understand their duties and responsibilities, helps build quality client relationships and creates a positive work environment.
  • Perspective. The best leaders do not concentrate on what they cannot control but instead focus on what they can control: effort, attitude and perspective. Doing so helps you move on and focus your energy constructively.
  • Authenticity. Basketball taught me the need to be my authentic self. You develop stronger relationships with your teammates and coaches when they know that you are genuine and real. The same can be said about growing relationships within an organization. The best leaders understand that acknowledging and working with their team members’ individual strengths, weaknesses — and idiosyncrasies! — makes their organization stronger.

Throughout my professional career, I have seen the skills we learn from athletics directly translate to the business world. I am passionate about empowering more girls to play team sports and to help develop the female leaders of tomorrow.

Connecting a competitive edge, a strong marketing approach and a good customer experience

Strong communication is one of the essential skills to a winning basketball team. Whether calling out plays, setting picks or executing screens, players must communicate to ensure everyone on the court is working towards the same goal.


That communication focus extends to business. In order to gain a competitive advantage, you need to know your customers and their communities and have effective, timely communication to build layers of trust that results in a flourishing relationship. When customers feel heard and understood, their experiences are inherently better ones.


That said, successfully engaging with borrowers today is all about meeting them where they are. You better understand customers’ needs through listening to what they and the data are saying and by more effectively communicating the right message in a way that works for them. Volly’s most successful customers use our tools to engage with a combination of email, social, print and other multi-mediums that when choreographed together successfully blankets the market. This is how lenders can exceed their customers’ expectations, deliver better borrowing experiences and cultivate stronger relationships within their client base.

Marketing automation can also help lenders build stronger client relationships.

Today’s loan officers simply do not have the time to undertake the various tasks that create customers for life — such as prospecting, crafting curated emails and creating engaging content for multimedia campaigns. This is when marketing automation tools can be especially impactful. 

A strategic marketing automation partner can help lenders generate stronger leads, increase conversion rates and access more accurate data for determining the effectiveness of marketing efforts. But most important of all, marketing automation gives lenders more time to make the genuine human connections with customers that build trust and create brand loyalty. 

How Volly helps lenders create customers for life

In today’s always-competitive mortgage market, connecting with prospects and transforming these leads into customers for life is the biggest challenge facing lending organizations. The path from capture to convert to retain is a not simple, straight line but a complex path with plenty of twists and turns. 

I like to think that the diversity of our solutions is what sets Volly apart. It’s how we are able to help today’s lenders overcome challenges that are both unique and ever-changing. We offer an online marketing store and mortgage websites to give lenders more promising leads. We provide a CRM solution, email automation and creative services to help lenders boost conversion rates. And we drive repeat business for lenders with personalized retention programs and gift fulfillment.

Complex challenges demand best-in-class solutions—and this is what Volly delivers.