Empathy on the Squash Court
With how much our current culture stresses the importance of empathy in the workplace, one would think we live in a more understanding working world. While strives have been made, there is still room to grow, with 68% of CEOs claiming the state of empathy in U.S. organizations needs to change. Working at the squash startup, there were moments that required extreme empathy.
The mission of the squash startup is to create the most diverse squash community in the nation. Besides ethnic diversity, there was religious, socioeconomic, and cognitive diversity represented amongst the group. As a result, the behavior of the students was unpredictable. It was important to never assume why someone was behaving a certain way, because everyone is fighting a battle you don’t know about.
I vividly remember one young girl, Gabby, who was extremely positive and excited about playing squash at the outset. However, once she got on court, she was not making contact with the ball. When she played a match with a boy, her confidence continued to decrease.
It was upsetting to see that shift in Gabby’s attitudes, but I empathized wholeheartedly because I’ve been there. When I was 16 in my first squash match, I could not make a proper serve and lost the majority of points due to that. With that in mind, I made it my personal mission to make sure she left those courts feeling empowered. I took her aside and said, “Let’s work on your serves one on one in a separate court later.”
In that session, I walked her through the motions slowly, making it as basic as possible. Gabby got the hang of it, and eventually made contact with the ball. It made my day to see her smile again, and at the end of the day, she gave me a hug and said, “Thank you, really thank you so much for everything.”
Sometimes, all people need is someone to believe in them, because who knows what their support system looks like elsewhere. Whether that be playing squash or crunching financial models, everyone starts from somewhere. In that moment, I fell in love with my job and truly felt like I made an impact, using the sport I love as a vehicle.