Lessons I learned playing hockey that help make me a better accountant

Written by Justin Zulewski, MS ’23 –

I started playing hockey when I was four years old and I’ve been playing ever since. Hockey is a massive part of who I am, and the sport has taught me some valuable life lessons that have helped me become a better accountant in five important ways. 

  1. Dedication 

Hockey gave me the opportunity to learn the value of dedicating oneself to working to achieve a long-term goal. Each season, my team and I would practice several times a week to improve ourselves and our chances of winning games and making the playoffs. The accounting profession can be demanding at times, including long hours during busy season. I haven’t worked a busy season yet but I’m confident my prior experience practicing nearly every day in hockey has prepared me for the long days that can be required as an accountant.  

  1. Asking questions 

Hockey helped me realize the value of asking questions from a young age. Many of my hockey coaches stressed the importance of asking for clarification if I or any of my teammates didn’t understand a drill in practice or a play that was drawn on the whiteboard. My coaches explained that asking questions would eliminate any confusion and put everyone on the same page, which would increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the drills and plays when we ran them on the ice. This ideology can be transferred to the accounting profession where its crucial to communicate with clients or co-workers if there is confusion on a topic. The company and engagement is more effective when everyone understands the assignment and their responsibilities, and asking questions can accomplish this task. 

  1. The importance of punctuality  

My varsity hockey coach once told my team, “To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late.” My coach stressed the importance of punctuality because he wanted my team to be on time and prepared for any practices or games. I can apply this mindset to the accounting field for meetings with clients and co-workers: arriving at a meeting before the scheduled time prevents potential setbacks to the meeting starting on time including traffic or technical difficulties if the meeting is online. Arriving at the meeting early also allows the accountant to gather themselves and review any notes before the meeting. 

  1. Teamwork 

My experience working as part of a team in hockey helped prepare me for the team atmosphere that’s present in the accounting industry. In hockey I learned that players must work as a team to have success throughout the season, even if relationships with teammates may not be perfect. The UB School of Management helps familiarize accounting students with this dynamic by implementing group projects into coursework with randomized groups of students. Accounting students then learn how to succeed in a group atmosphere with peers who you may not know. . Professionals in the accounting industry may encounter a similar team atmosphere where colleagues may need to put aside any differences with co-workers when working on a project so the group can succeed.  

  1. Confidence 

I learned to have confidence in my abilities while playing hockey which can translate over to the workplace as an accountant. I knew that to perform to my potential in hockey, I needed to trust my skills when making split-second decisions. I can apply the same philosophy to accounting: I’ve spent years learning and gaining knowledge of accounting through my classes at UB, so I should be confident in applying my knowledge during my career. Possessing confidence can also help me avoid any anxiety or nerves when faced with difficult situations in the profession. 

BIO: Justin is born and raised in Western New York. He has a brother, and his family has two dogs. Justin earned his accounting bachelor’s degree at UB and is currently going for his master’s in accounting at UB. During his undergrad, Justin planned to initially major in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance but opted to switch to Accounting after his sophomore year. Additionally, Justin has a part-time job at BJ’s Wholesale Club that he has held since senior year of high school. Justin enjoys several leisurely activities, including golfing with his friends and playing hockey for a Men’s recreational team. During the summer, Justin also enjoys spending time with his family at their campground. 

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