Op-Ed: Post-pandemic employers want resilient employees

By Steve Yackey, JEB Jr. Enrichment Center

The following op-ed was written by Steve Yackey, a local businessman and longtime board member of F.O.C.U.S Training Academy and the Jesse E. Barnett Jr. Enrichment Center.

I was in the business world for 43 years before I retired. I saw trends change, required skills advance and job duties shift. One employee requirement remained the same – character.

I’m not the only one who sees it that way. Think about the skills that mattered in the past year – discipline while working from home, problem solving when events had to be quickly reinvented, and the ability to adapt to new technologies and safety protocols. Employees needed to be resilient, adaptable and creative.

So it’s no surprise that executives at top companies are looking for those kind of traits – strong character and strategic thinking. That was the finding of a recent  survey by Education Week, a national publication covering K-12 education news and information.

How do you get those skills?

While families, faith communities and schools all play a vital role in character development, I found through my son that youth sports are an important asset in nurturing and growing interpersonal skills.

My son, Danny, got involved at F.O.C.U.S Training Academy and the Jesse E. Barnett Jr. Enrichment Center, located on River Road, in eighth grade. The head coach approached him after a game and told him he could help him with his basketball skills.

Without pay, the coach met Danny at the gym three times a week to work on his shot – or so he thought. What he was really working on was Danny’s confidence and discipline.

Sports are achievement-driven, meaning athletes experience failure and success often and must learn to respond to situations appropriately, win or lose. Sports demand strong communication and collaboration with other teammates, officials and coaches. Youth athletes learn how to receive and respond to positive and critical feedback daily, a skill that is particularly important in the workplace.

Through basketball practices, games and traveling with the team Danny learned what it meant to be a person of character, a teammate, a friend and role model for others in the classroom. He gained confidence on and off the court through game time situations and was exposed to teammates of all different backgrounds.

The community at F.O.C.U.S is diversity at work. Players come from every neighborhood of Louisville, every socioeconomic background and very different homes. When students experience that at a young age, it allows them to enter the workplace with new ideas and experiences. Kids become much more suited for the outside world both personally and professionally. I give Tim Barnett, the CEO and president, a lot of credit for the type of community he has built there.

“I had a successful basketball career because of Tim, but what he taught me outside of basketball is what continues to help me be successful in my profession and life today,” Danny said. “He has a special gift of connecting with kids of all ages and teaching them responsibility, accountability and integrity through the game of basketball.”

COVID-19 has forced schools, colleges and companies to reimagine what learning and professional development looks like. One place they fail to look is the basketball court and that’s where some of the best employees are made.

To learn more about F.O.C.U.S Training Academy and the Jesse E. Barnett (JEB) Jr. Enrichment Center, visit jebcenter.org.

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