copyright: TETE (Tomasz Tomaszewski)
WO: You run a profitable business related to education and sports. What was the beginning like?
Michał: We were always interested in sports and very active, we played sports together. Everyone in our company was active in sports in some way.
Kuba: It’s important to say that everyone we work with was very active in sports. People who run the school and manage our projects were all very active in top-level sports for at least ten years.
WO: Is your business not a bit like sports?
Szymon: I think the two resemble each other very closely. The main similarity is cooperation. In the Gortat School we are a group made up of individuals who would not be able to do certain things on their own. Since all of us have been involved in sports since early childhood, we know how to cooperate. In every business, just like in sports, we have successes and failures, and when these failures come, when we fall, we need to know how to get up and go on. Resistance to stress is key, and the value of this ability in everyday life can also be directly compared in business and in sports. At the beginning of a game it’s easy to play well or make difficult moves on the playfield, but when we have 23 points each or a tie break, when we’re near the end of the game, obviously the stress levels are much higher. If you learn how to deal with this in sports, during many games and practices, it’s easier to make use of that experience in your personal life and in business.
WO: What sports do you teach at the School of Sports? I know the list is long…
Michał: We have soccer, basketball, volleyball, hockey, figure skating, handball, rugby. Yesterday we struck a deal in Kraków and Łódź and we will try to introduce American football. We are also active in developing curling. As far as individual sports go, we have judo, karate, badminton, muay thai in Kraków, tennis and table tennis, cycling, horseriding, and waterball.
WO: So you have both individual and team sports. What does each type of sport – the individual and the team – teach players?
Kuba: Both teach persistence, I think. How to fight and win with yourself. Responsibility for the final result.
Szymon: The differences between the two are mostly related to team work, which we think is key. But players participating in individual sports also work in teams, they have team competitions in cycling, badminton, as well as games and tournaments between clubs, where the individual results affect the final outcome of the competition for the whole team.
Kuba: On a team, with any luck a player who is in poorer shape that particular day can be a bit hidden – like one of eleven soccer players (not the goalie, though), or one of five basketball players on the team. It can be done, you can always remove a weaker player from the field, replace them. With a tennis player this is not an option.
WO: What do you think guarantees success? In fact, I think one can only speak of the elements that contribute to success, there are no guarantees. The only thing that is guaranteed is failure, the rest you need to work for.
Kuba: We could easily show you ten players from Łódź who played basketball over the last twenty years and had much more talent for the game than Marcin Gortat. But Marcin is the one playing for the NBA, not the others. There were players who had his physical capabilities, but this changed nothing, because they did not have his work ethic.
Michał: Success is character, physical capabilities, psychological strength…and some luck.
copyright: M. Blachon
WO: A quick win or persistence – what’s more important in sports? And can this experience be used in business situations?
Szymon: Persistence, definitely – just like in life. What does a quick win give you? Very often people stop fighting to be the best once they’ve achieved success. In my opinion, you can only build yourself and your future with hard and long-term work. The same goes for sports and for business. Nothing short-term will bring success, because it will be over here and now. Our goal is to build a person through sports. So, long-term work is key.
Kuba: I think achieving success quickly is OK, there is nothing wrong with it, but it’s always harder to keep your championship than to win it in the first place. You may achieve success quickly, but then in the next season or year you will only be able to repeat that success through hard work. A quick win happens only once – in order to repeat it you need to invest a lot of work.
Michał: Definitely persistence. All our experiences show that we need to work hard, and if success comes our way we are very happy. Nothing is given forever or taken for granted, both in sports and in business there are ups and downs, so we work hard, and then those successes last longer.
Tomek: It’s a lot of fun because in many ways it’s pure statistics. With art or music things are very subjective – someone might say Kraftwerk is the best, someone else that Guns’n’Roses. But with basketball it’s all pure statistics. If you score thirty points in the top league, then foreign teams will be interested in you. You can like or dislike a player, his ego or his behavior on the playfield, but if he scores thirty points every night then he is the best, period.
WO: In business more and more often people say that „shots from the hip” work, but in fact very often some „strong excel work” is behind them. A balanced business, with a stable income, can guarantee a safe market position and steady growth. I get the impression that in sports you have many opportunities to test the value of persistence versus quick wins.
Szymon: You can really see this in our school. We only admit those, who are the best in Łódź or in our region. The basketball team we create is made up of the best players in the school or regional championships, they win all the games, but when they play in other regions in Poland, things are not so rosy anymore. We teach our “Gortats” that short-term successes are not important – and this is a key role for the coach. It’s the coach who shows them that a high school game with even a one hundred to twenty win means nothing if they then play a regional game and lose. For us this is a really important value, and our coaches teach young players, who will graduate soon and will then start their adventure in the business world, that things aren’t always rosy and wonderful. Sometimes we come across students whose egos are overinflated; they often come from smaller towns where they were the local stars and for a few years literally everything went their way. They then join a team made up of twelve other kids just like them. Some deal with this well, others don’t, and some go back to their local communities, because being a star is crucial to them. With young teams this is particularly noticeable – we try to teach them that they won’t always be stars.
WO: And what drives them – success or failure?
Michał: Failure, definitely it is about failure. If something does not go well in sports or in business it stays in your head and drives you to look for solutions. You get angry that something that should go according to plan does not. Sometimes you find the reason for this setback in yourself, sometimes in others. You ponder how it’s possible that despite so many discussions, providing solutions, your employees still don’t stick to the rules. You start wondering whether they are the problem, or…maybe you are the problem? The same thing happens in sports – you try hard, you win on the playfield, but you see that others on the team have a very different approach. Is this what caused the defeat? You look for solutions. If there is only success, business is growing, the team keeps winning, your senses are dulled, your responses slower, you are no longer prepared for analysis or for growth.
Kuba: If defeat does not drive you, you are not a true sportsman. Success is not achieved overnight. If failure breaks you, you will never win.
WO: There are athletes who say that the issue is not how many times you fall, but that you get up that one extra time…
Kuba: People work all season to win the league championship, or to be promoted to a higher level in a tournament. I remember when our basketball team was fighting to advance from one level to the next, and once that was achieved they played and fought again, to go even higher. Success came, but it only lasted a few minutes, the chemical reactions kicked in, everyone was euphoric, but two hours later the emotions were gone.
WO: In that case how do you motivate a team that has won everything, that’s the best? Is it ever possible in sports to feel that you are the best and that’s it? Or is it natural to be looking for new challenges all the time?
Kuba: You look for new challenges. Do you know of a team that has achieved everything?
Michał: There are many examples in professional sports, basketball or soccer. It seemed that Real Madrid achieved everything there was to achieve, that they are a team that has won all the prizes. Nothing on the team changed, the club remained the same, but all of a sudden they started losing, they dropped out, they lost twenty points, even though nothing happened. In sports nothing can be taken for granted, nothing is given forever.
Tomek: It’s all so complex – the core of the team is the same, but one player leaves, a new one arrives and the chemistry between the players changes: the team as a whole is ruined. Every member of the team is professional, top of the top, the best, but suddenly something goes wrong. Another example is when a player is hurt and suddenly the whole team has a problem, even though they are all champions. Isn’t it the same in business?
We spoke as a team:
Michał Feter – principal of the Gortat School in Łódź for the last 4 years. Previously, for 10 years Michał worked as a coach and management advisor (including project management), and was responsible for obtaining outside funding for projects, evaluation, and coach competencies. He is the author of over 200 grant projects. From an early age he has been fascinated by sports. Spain is his hobby.
Szymon Nowak – occupational therapist, teacher and publicist by education, who has been active in volleyball all his life. He loves working with people and for the people. Before joining the Gortat School he worked for the Dziewczynka z Zapałkami and JiM Foundations. At the School he is responsible for marketing and for the growth of the volleyball project. Coordinator of the Gortat School Business Club. He does what he loves by working in the field of sports.
Tomasz Solarek – graduated from Łódź University with a degree in English. Used to play basketball for ŁKS and Łódź University. Worked for 7 years for the Marcin Gortat MG13 Foundation, where he was responsible for coordinating the Marcin Gortat Camp project. Currently works for the Gortat School and Gortat School Business Club. Responsible for collaboration with American colleges to provide sports scholarships in the U.S.A. for Gortat School students.
Jakub Urbanowicz – graduated from the Łódź University of Technology with a degree in Management. Used to play basketball for ŁKS and and the Łódź University of Technology. Responsible for the development of Marcin Gortat Schools in Łódź, Kraków, Poznań, and Gdańsk. Co-creator of the Gortat School Business Club. President of the ŁKS Male Basketball Association.
Waldek Olbryk – Believer in the development of organizational culture through working on aspects that can influence it, based on the client and user perspective. Believes in the concept of “life-long learning”. Loves the P2P (people2people) approach in everything that is related to business – even in the area of pure B2B (business2business). Open to exchanges between cultures and sectors. Created the concept and co-organized discussions between artists, businessmen, and academics organized at the SOUNDEDIT 2017 festival in Łódź. Admitted to the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in 2018. Currently works as Board Member of Echo Investment S.A. For over 20 years he has been active in the real estate sector in Poland, working for companies such as BP, Apsys, Philips, and Skanska.
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