COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE- athletes can’t just not show up to practice or not reply to a coach’s text message. Communication is a controllable factor- in games you can’t control if someone makes their free throw or if they pitch it 90 MPH, but you can control how much you communicate. I am always being complimented on my ability to communicate and effectively get projects done because of it. Communication is all about effort.
As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hailey Brooke McFadden.
Hailey was a 4 season starter on the volleyball team at Wake Forest University and captain and libero her senior year. She was a 4x Academic All-ACC honoree and 3x Dean’s list honoree and she graduated from Wake Forest in 3.5 years with a BA in communication with a minor in film studies. She then went on to get her master of science in management from the Wake Forest School of Business, which is the number 3 business management program in the country.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Igrew up outside of Raleigh in Holly Springs, North Carolina. I had never seen volleyball be played before but I had a few friends who played at a local rec center so I decided to join when I was 11 or 12. I fell in love with volleyball immediately and tried out for my middle school team, which I did not make. It was devastating, but my parents encouraged me to work hard and try out the next year. I began searching for places to play volleyball and found a local club team I ended up joining and even found an adult pick-up league to play in! I made the school team the next year and the rest is history!
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete?
My dad was also a D1 college athlete so he always had faith I could do it. Volleyball wasn’t televised much when I was little so the first college game I ever saw was when I was 13- Penn State (reigning national champs) VS UNC at UNC. I remember at that game my dad turned to me and said “I think you could play at that level someday”. Since then it was my dream to play in college.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My parents- No matter what they drove me to every practice, watched every game, and encouraged me when I was down.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful business person?
I stumbled into creating my own marketing company somewhat by accident. When I was on the volleyball team at Wake Forest our media coverage was terrible. They attached field hockey stats instead of volleyball stats, posted about games after they were already played, called players the wrong names etc. I remember being so frustrated that our ESPN announcers couldn’t give us a fair broadcast because our website and social medias were all neglected. So I go the name of our media guy, taught myself Photoshop, Premier etc and would make all our graphics for the website and SM while still on the team and being a full-time student. I would even set up my own cameras before games and make our own highlight reels- they ended up using one of my videos for our intro video before games on the big screen! I had already started building my personal IG and companies started reaching out to me for help with their businesses. While in grad school, I was already consulting 5 different businesses! I would have loved to keep playing volleyball, but there is no opportunity for women to play indoor volleyball after college professionally in the US.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects new you are working on now?
Starting a successful business at the start of COVID-19!
Do you think your experience as a professional athlete gave you skills that make you a better entrepreneur? Can you give a story or example about what you mean?
Absolutely- constantly in the entrepreneurship world you’re faced with adversity and challenges on a daily basis. Being an athlete taught me how to handle that. My senior year at Wake Forest, we had to play the reigning national champs at their gym with 10,000 fans there and even more watching from home. I constantly think to myself- if I could handle that, I can handle anything.
Ok. Here is the main question of our interview. Entrepreneurs and professional athletes share a common “hustle culture”. Can you share your “5 Work Ethic Lessons That Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE- athletes can’t just not show up to practice or not reply to a coach’s text message. Communication is a controllable factor- in games you can’t control if someone makes their free throw or if they pitch it 90 MPH, but you can control how much you communicate. I am always being complimented on my ability to communicate and effectively get projects done because of it. Communication is all about effort.
- Managing time efficiently- this one is self explanatory but nobody manages time better than college and professional athletes.
- Going above and beyond- the extra effort. In college it was staying after practice to get extra reps- in business it’s sending in an extra data report, doing a little more work than you agreed in your scope of work, and doing what it takes to make the client happy.
- Taking feedback- athletes take SO MUCH FEEDBACK. This is an incredible trait to have in business so you can hone in on your craft and sharpen your skills.
- Doing things even when you don’t feel like it. I remember teammates shaking me at 5:30 am to wake up and get off the locker room couch to go lift weights- I think to myself often- if I can do that, I can do 10 calls today even if I don’t feel like it.
What would you advise to a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?
Don’t take feedback to heart- use it as fuel to make yourself better and never stop going above and beyond in your work.
You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
100% of my employees and interns are female. I would like to keep helping women break the glass ceiling.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to help make education affordable and attainable for everyone. I think a lot of problems like poverty, etc could be solved by better education.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“A dream does not become a reality through magic, it takes sweat, determination, and hard-work”
A lot of people think I stumbled upon success or just woke up one day and started killing it because I make it look “easy”. They don’t see the behind the scenes of me working every single day to be the best I can possibly be.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Serena Williams hands down! She put women’s tennis on the map and paved the way for thousands of female athletes. She showed that you can still attain your dreams and be a mom… I could go on and on.