Can Project Management Be Taught?

This summer, I’ve been playing on a rec soccer team for about three hours every Thursday night. One of my friends from college, who has lived in this city his whole life, started it a few years ago with his high school friends and it’s grown ever since. It’s open to anyone in the city, and it’s in the middle of a major park so new people come out and join every time.

Like any team, you have people who seem like they could have gone D1, and then some people who seem as though they just recently discovered they have feet. As for me, I’ve been playing soccer since the age of four, and joined a competitive club team at eight, playing in high school and club ever since. 

Having this experience and being the competitive person I am, I’m always looking to win the game, which means helping the team out in whatever ways necessary. The last time I played on an actual soccer team was in high school, where I was the varsity captain sophomore through senior year, so being a leader on the field has pretty much been instilled into my soccer mind by now. This means helping get everyone broken into teams, start playing, helping the defense when a quick turnover happens, volunteering to play longer if all the subs are tired, and help pair up players with someone at their equal playing level for man-to-man defense.

Whenever I’m out on the field, helping people choose who they’re going to mark, I always think about work. This summer I’ve been interning at a project management firm, which I didn’t know existed until I interviewed with them in the spring. Essentially, when a company has a big, new project they’re trying to get done but don’t feel they don’t have the leadership capability to head it themselves, they hire a project manager from us. Someone who is experienced in being the captain of a team, basically. Will get goals met in the allotted period of time, and have the team working like a well-oiled machine.

Before speaking with my coworkers, I thought project management was something people just found they were good at. Leadership capabilities seem to me like something you’re either skilled at or not, can leadership be taught? Though many of my coworkers went to school for it, had to work their way up the ranks before being given the title, or spent time and money on a certification for some strategic alphabet soup behind their name.

Project management is so instilled in our everyday lives, though. Recently I went to the lake with five of my friends – a feat that should earn great congratulations as our big and exciting plans rarely make it out of the group chat phase. Organizing what dates everyone is free, what time they can leave, who is driving together and who is separate, making sure there is enough car space for people and bags, planning out food for when we get to the house… all tasks that, if rich, we could have hired a project manager for.

I think about my job when I play soccer though, mainly when assigning this man-to-man coverage. There is one woman who loves to come out and exercise, but she’s one of those people who woke up recently and said, “Eureka, look at that! Feet! By golly, I wonder what they can do?” When we have another Newbie on our team, they guard each other and find joy in being on the field where it happened. When the scores are close, or we’re losing, and we don’t have someone we can waste guarding her, we leave her open and double-team the best player on the other team. Or defensively cherry-pick if there’s not a stand-out player.

When talking to my mom about the parallels between what my coworkers do and what I do on a field, or in a group chat, she claims it is because I am gifted in the leadership position. She is my mother though and believes I am gifted in almost everything. 

Whether I have a natural-born proclivity for project management or not, it’s one of those skills you have to hone if you want something done. I’ve been trained to be good at it because I want to go on vacation with friends, I want my team to win, even if it’s just an 8v8 scrimmage on a field that hasn’t been mowed since March. Maybe I just appear to excel in this category because I’m so well-versed in these specified industries, sports and vacationing, so well. I do know one thing though – I find great joy in succeeding in things I was in charge of, so maybe I will go into project management professionally.

Yours truly,



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