By Spring’s founder and lead coach, Luke Thomas
So about a year ago, I was playing around with a bat and ball at a family garden barbecue near Swansea. Lovely day. Beer in hand. It was that Wimbledon time of year and conversation got onto who played tennis. Turns out most hadn’t for years, and had lost their racquets during house moves.
My brother-in-law Rich said: “Hey Luke, we should play properly sometime.”
So within a month we’d bought racquets, joined a club, and started chasing around a court deep in the Mendip hills.
It didn’t take long to notice that Rich would – more often than not – beat me. Sometimes by a lot, sometimes after a good fight, but generally all the time.
He graciously acknowledged that the final score didn’t really reflect the actual in-game play – but still, exercise and fresh air aside – I really could have done with winning more often.
It wasn’t long before I was just itching to win, and therefore becoming more and more focused on the output and not the input.
Eventually I decided to get myself a tennis coach. For crying out loud: I run a business that coaches managers and leaders to tangibly improve daily, yet here’s me getting all frustrated about losing, without doing anything different? Change required.
Cue Coach number 1 – who will remain unnamed. He was pretty competitive, it turned out, on arrival. He ripped my game to shreds. Told me about all his successes and time coaching in the USA.
Kept telling me all the stuff I was doing wrong. And got me working on about 10 things at once to improve my game. He had so much knowledge that he wanted to impart, it got stupid. I literally lost the ability to serve!
I couldn’t do it without thinking about the ball toss, my feet position, what I was doing with my racquet, what angle I was standing at, and the grip I was using.
Next game with Rich? A complete mess. A whitewash, in fact. An epic thrashing – the worst yet.
So, I’ll give Coach 1 another try, I thought. Maybe he was having an off day. No.
On he went with his ignorant barrage of fixating me on the wrong stuff and knocking my confidence. My conscious mind was tied-up and far too busy. The conclusion? Coach number 1 “You’re fired.”
Cue Coach number 2 – Stephen.
After some more research, I gave him a trial. I did the same with interviewing different accountants for my business, time to apply that to tennis. This tennis coach was different.
First of all, he just listened and watched and asked questions. Most of the first session he learned my game, understood my tactics (I didn’t have any), and noticed what worked and what didn’t. He threw me a few gems. Quick wins.
Things that made a difference early on (can’t tell you what, in case Rich reads this) and he built my confidence, helped me understand what to focus on, and took things steady.
Next lesson, this continued and really got me working on simple process goals, which distracted me from the over all “I’ve got to win and beat Rich” outcome goal.
The shift in my performance was very noticeable, and fast. I hired him several more times in the coming weeks. And am due to meet him again shortly after further practice.
Needless to say, I can now beat Rich occasionally. And most of the time our matches have got a whole lot closer, drawn out, and harder-won battles.
They are lots more fun, give us more exercise, and more laughs.
It got me thinking about so many different things: coaching clients, relationships with family and friends – when to say what you think, and when to temper it.
How I manage my own thinking and notice what’s working or holding me back. It was also a real wake-up call about being a dad, and helping my little daughter (pictured below) head in the right direction.
Noticing how much I tell her what to do, as opposed to what not to.
The difference between “don’t open that drawer” and “leave it closed” or “don’t touch” and “just look” are already paying-off. Big time.
I think I’ll blog further in connection to coaching inputs, as it’s priceless and I’d love comment from other folk sharing their experience.
By the way – if you need a great tennis coach, get in touch. I know one.