Athletics is about more than scoring goals or winning games. Competing in athletics teaches life lessons.
Lehigh prides itself on preparing its student-athletes for success after college. Balancing the rigors of a challenging academic institution with the challenges of collegiate athletics leads to skills that stick with them for life.
In Julia Washburn's internship at Prudential this summer, she has come across a concept that encapsulates these skills - the Financial Athlete.
"Our CEO's (Chief Executive Officer) top three traits for his employees are no drama, low ego and high professionalism, which are traits that pretty much all coaches look for in their athletes," said Washburn, a rising senior on the Mountain Hawks' field hockey team. "It's the foundation of a really good team. Meanwhile, our CFO (Chief Financial Officer) coined the term becoming a Financial Athlete. By that, he means being dynamic and adaptable, having endurance and being able to think quickly on your feet."
The CFO's wife actually played field hockey in college, so Washburn could relate.
"Pretty much everything you would want to see in a top-tier athlete, he wants you to translate into finance," she said. "Hearing this the first day of my internship, it was a source of confidence because I felt like I could really tap into the skills that I learned from being an athlete to help me develop as a finance professional."
Washburn is actually a political science major, but she decided to step out of her comfort zone, which is something she has learned from playing field hockey at Lehigh. Athletes must play fearlessly and with confidence to put themselves in position to succeed.
"A friend interned at Prudential and she had a really amazing experience," said Washburn. "I'm still not exactly sure what I want to do career-wise, so I applied to a bunch of places and I got an interview with Prudential. I connected really well with the people I met through the interview process."
"Our staff was really excited to find out what Julia had in store this summer," said Lehigh head coach Caitlin Dallmeyer. "Securing internships can be a challenge for a college student, especially at the bigger firms like Prudential. Julia has always been very proactive in thinking about her future, and I'm glad to see her push herself into a new environment that she may not have been comfortable exploring."
Although she isn't a business major, Washburn is minoring in business, so she was able to adapt to her internship rather quickly.
"I have a good baseline of business knowledge, but I found that no one really knows what they're doing when they first come into the workforce," she said. "It's a lot of learning on the job, especially in the area of insurance which is a completely niche industry. You're not taking life insurance classes in school, so everyone was essentially on the same level when we arrived."
Washburn's first big project was working on the capital protection framework.
"For insurance, we take on risk from the everyday person and we have to be able to pay out should those risks occur, so we need to maintain enough capital," she said. "Part of my job was applying different shocks to the amount of capital to determine how much we need to keep, just in case we were to have a really stressful event such as the financial crisis."
While Washburn is going through her internship, she is also keeping the Financial Athlete in the back of her mind. The Financial Athlete refers to skills learned as an athlete on the playing field, and doesn't refer to solely a student-athlete. At the end of her internship, Washburn's final project will be to report back to Prudential on the subject.
"I've been taking what I've learned in the Lehigh Athletics Leadership Academy and have tried to frame how I go about my everyday throughout my internship," said Washburn. "I try to keep the commitment continuum in mind (resistant, reluctant, existent, compliant, committed, compelled, obsessed). I feel like those skills apply to more than just being on the field. Am I asking questions? Am I truly engaged in my work or am I just plugging in numbers?"
Integral aspects of being a Financial Athlete, low ego and commitment, are also important parts of successful business and sport teams.
"It's important to be able to admit if you don't know something and if there's someone who can help," said Washburn. "In terms of commitment, you need to be in it for long haul. This is a 10-week internship. You can't just be revved up for the first week."
The parallels between sports teams and business teams are endless.
"My best friends are my teammates at school; I think of them as family," said Washburn. "When it comes to being on the field, we hold each other accountable. We have to work really hard and we have to perform at the end of the day. My teammates are my best friends, but I still need them to score that goal or receive that pass.
"At Prudential, everyone on my floor always says that you're not going to get anything done if you live in your cubicle. You have to reach out, connect to others and work as a team to be successful."
This summer has helped Washburn grow as a leader. She's in stronger position now, heading into the 2017 season, than she was a couple short months ago.
"We talk a lot at Prudential about accountability and making sure you're learning as much as you can," said Washburn. "You are in charge of your own experience. I can make this an okay internship or I can make this a great internship… That's how I want to approach my season.
"Also, the collaborative nature of this (Prudential) environment has inspired me to embrace collaboration on my teams. Teamwork can sound cheesy, but it really is the cornerstone of not only sports, but also the rest of your life."
Even before her experience this summer, Dallmeyer has already seen a transformation on the playing field.
"I have only coached Julia a year, but have seen her grow tremendously in that short time," she said. "I truly believe she is more confident in her leadership skills and ability to excel in any environment after spending so much time within our Leadership Academy, learning about her strengths and how she best works with others. Julia brings her best self to all that she does and exemplifies the student-athlete that every coach hopes for."
Heading into the summer, Washburn decided to step outside her comfort zone, and it has paid off.
"It's really important to encourage people to pursue what they're interested in, regardless what they're studying or what they think they're qualified for," she said. "If you want to do something that your major may not support, still go for it and be ready to work really hard. There's no set path for your career."
Washburn entered a foreign setting with a sense of confidence, but her confidence has only grown.
"I went into this experience not feeling like I could do it, but it's helped me realize that I can learn and I am really capable," she said. "Lehigh has given me amazing tools. This summer has enhanced my appreciation for the professional world and enhanced my appreciation for my last year at Lehigh.
"I am so excited to get back and really be in the moment. This summer has made me appreciate how awesome Lehigh is and how awesome my experience has been."