With the launch of V Starr, I immediately realized that although tennis and design couldn't be further apart, I was bringing lessons learned on the court into the meetings, whether they were with potential clients, my team, or suppliers. My curiosity piqued, I began to compile a list of former athletes (not all of whom played professionally) who are now at the top of their professions. If I could talk to each one I'd ask them if their sports background was of any use in their professional life. And that curiosity led to this book. Along with my co-author, Kelly E. Carter, I did get to talk with this impressive and varied group of former athletes, and their responses comprise this book. I was encouraged and pleasantly surprised by their contributions. Though they come from a variety of fields—there are actors, designers, CEOs, chefs, doctors, editors, financiers, reporters, and politicians, as well as former professional athletes—the drive and discipline they bring into their work mirrors what they gave on the field, rink, and court or in the pool.
I loved working on this book, and I hope you too take something away—whether you're an aspiring visionary, an established or ascending executive, a burgeoning designer or actor. I hope you'll see how sports gives you a foundation that is transferrable, and how if you've played sports (at any level, professional or amateur), you are carrying around knowledge that you can use effectively in other fields. Reading the experiences of others made me cognizant of the benefits from sports I didn't even realize I had received—character, strength of body and mind, confidence, a sense of value and validation. Sarina Bratton, an entrepreneur who started a cruise line, perhaps sums it up best: "All of the training, the discipline, the determination, the good attitude and hard work that you're putting into your sport now are inherent values that you will carry with you through life, and you can apply those same values and disciplines to anything that you choose in your life. Recognize that and never be afraid to use them in your career or whatever you choose to do."
Not only did this book validate my sense that sports will benefit my post-sports career, but the stories also moved me. I get teary-eyed every time I read about former secretary of defense William Cohen's dad standing in the snow, peeking in through the window to watch his son play basketball, or how Vera Wang's figure skating not only bonded her to her family but may have extended her mother's life when illness struck.
More than move me, these essays motivated me. They have given me words of wisdom I'll take with me on the court and in the proverbial boardroom. In fact, I've already started putting some of these inspirational thoughts into my notebook—another idea I picked up from my father. He would prepare notebooks for us and fill up the pages with thoughts—sometimes even stories—about improving our tennis and attitudes. Everything was typed out, and the pages were laminated. Sometimes he'd hand us just a couple of pages, and sometimes a laminated binder folder. Some of them were even made into signs with sayings like "Believe It. Achieve It"; or "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail"; or "Perfect practice makes perfect," which he'd hang around the tennis court and in the house. There's still one hanging in the bathroom that reads: "Always try to be the most polite person in the world."