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Hoop Dreams

 Young businessman watching colleague throwing basketball
(Image credit: PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura/Getty Images)

When I was in third grade, my father signed me up for our town’s recreational basketball league. At my very first practice, the coach asked us to form layup lines, but I hadn’t even learned the fundamentals of the sport yet. I fell in love with basketball after that first practice.

One thing about recreational basketball leagues: everyone who signs up gets to play on a team. I stayed in the league for three years, until sixth grade, when the roster situation changed. In middle school, you had to try out if you wanted to play on a team. Because I loved basketball so much, of course I tried out in seventh grade — and to my great surprise, I didn’t make the cut. I had just learned my first lesson from the sport: Failure is inevitable. But also: There is a way to overcome nearly any obstacle.

I could have given up then and there, but instead I asked the coach if he’d allow me to practice with the team. He said yes, but in return, I would be responsible for taping every game. With this deal in place, I was able to practice with the team all season, which allowed me to improve my skills and learn directly from the coach.

That brings me to the next lesson I learned from playing basketball: The only way to succeed is through hard work and determination. There are no shortcuts. In the summer between seventh and eighth grades, I worked on improving my skills—specifically the ones my coach had told me to work on—and, guess what, next year I made the team.

Even at a young age, I knew that if I stopped practicing, stopped improving, there was always a chance someone would take my spot. This mentality stuck with me in my professional career. I knew I had to do my best while continually working on my weaknesses. 

When I entered the AV industry at Crestron, I had a little knowledge about a lot of subjects, particularly audio and video distribution and control system programming. I knew I had to put in extra work to be the best, so I took every opportunity to learn more. That meant taking the Crestron classes available to me and staying after work to play around with equipment in the office.

[ Also by Sharath Abraham: We Should Be Innovators

The third lesson I learned playing basketball is that teamwork is essential to win and to keep winning. I realized early on that I couldn’t play every position, so I had to learn how to trust my teammates, and get them to trust me. I trusted that my teammates knew how to play their positions, and I knew that if I was in trouble, either on offense or defense, they would have my back.

This is a key skill to have when working at any company. In my early Crestron days, I struggled to learn all the product lines, but I knew that my co-workers would always help me when I had any questions. This trust was instilled in us by our managers, similar to how a coach handles her team. Now that I manage a team at AVI-SPL, I always push the message that we all have to trust each other and communicate. We have to work together to succeed and, ultimately, keep winning. 

Communication is another skill I have sharpened by playing basketball throughout my life. Excellent communication has been a major key to my success—not just at work but in life. 

We communicate by more than just our words; communication also includes subtle nonverbal cues. Have you ever been in a meeting where you were tipped off that the audience was just not that into your message by their facial expression or body language? Playing basketball, I learned how to make quick decisions by observing posture, facial expression, body language, and tone. Once you recognize reluctance in your audience, you can pivot and fine-tune the tone of your message until it’s better received.

Additionally, communication is a two-way street. Just like coach gives feedback to his players, I give constructive feedback to my team members.

The most important lesson I learned from playing basketball is that you must enjoy the game and have fun playing. We practiced with one goal in mind—to win—but we all came together to make sure we had fun as well. 

[ Sharath Abraham was named to SCN's The Nine in 2020

When I graduated college, my first job was a bore. I dreaded going to work every day. It wasn’t long after that I quit and had the opportunity to join Crestron. Working at Crestron, the main goal was to provide excellent customer support, but we also had our fair share of fun in the office. Going into work didn’t seem like a chore, so I kept going for eight more years. Now that I am at AVI-SPL, I make sure I am providing an environment of positivity and fun.

Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have played basketball or any other sport to be successful in business, but it was important for me. Basketball taught me valuable skills I was able to apply for professional success. 

Once the world has COVID-19 handled, maybe you’d benefit from joining an adult sports league. It will give you an opportunity to get out there, outside of work, and make new connections. You might even pick up some new skills.

See you on the court!

Sharath Abraham

Sharath Abraham is an experienced technical professional with a demonstrated history of working with products that are designed and built to work together as a complete system. He is currently an engineering manager at AVI-SPL; prior to that, he was a technical director at Crestron Electronics. Abraham was featured in the 2020 class of SCN: The Nine and holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Systems: Computer Networks.