What We Can Learn From Sport Coaching

tennis coachYesterday I hired a Tennis Coach and today I am about to stop playing tennis altogether and never bothering with that sport again. Here is what happened…

While on a weekend away, we stayed at a place where there was a tennis court. Our daughter plays tennis at school and my wife knew a bit about tennis, so we decided to have a few games.

This was great fun. I quickly found a way to return the ball and to serve so that we could have a fun game.  From paying squash I knew how to hit a ball and it worked ok. I could feel my limitations though and knew that I’d never be able to play a proper match because when I hit the ball it went in a big lob and I could not get any power onto the ball without hitting it over the fence.

I started to like tennis but I was also frustrated and wanted to learn some tricks of the trade. We both enjoyed being outdoors in the fresh air, having fun and at the same time getting some good exercise.

So when we arrived home we saw that there was a tennis court very close by to our house and also a tennis coach advertising his services. Amazing how we all a sudden saw this opportunity that had always been there, but we did not notice it because it was not on our radar screen.

Anyway, we called the coach and booked our 1st lesson. We were both so excited… At last a bit of coaching and then we’d be off to a better game and even more fun. Maybe even finding some other people to play with.

Yesterday morning we had our 1st lesson. Our coach asked us to hit a few balls and quickly figured out our levels of play. He was actually quite pleased that we were raw and he could teach us good habits right from the start (or nearly).

We learned how to return a ball. The main learning for us was how to hold the racket and how to swing it. We also learned how to serve and again it was the grip and the swing. I did notice that occasionally I could get  power but overall the ball went all over the court. It was really hard to change my habits and follow the instructions from our coach. However, with a bit of patience and practice it seemed that we were making progress. Until…

Today we went for our first game on our own. We were very excited about using our newfound skills.

But it was a disaster. Instead of having fun we were frustrated big time. Our new grips and swings just made it impossible to get the ball where we wanted to. We were much worse then before we got coaching. So much so that I am thinking of quitting the game.

But then we got talking that this is probably very similar to hiring a business coach. I have often noticed that business owners get frustrated after the first few business coaching sessions. The new knowledge is a challenge to implement and the business seems to be going backwards – just like my tennis. Things take more time and the profits are not increasing as quickly as expected. Some business owners want to give up, some actually do and others push through and after a while they do not look back.

Old habits get replaced with new more constructive ones, the skill level improves and then slowly but surely everything improves. It is very rare that a business owner implements a new strategy and gets instant positive results. Everything needs to be tested and then needs constant improvement over a period of time. Mastery is reached after repeated practice. Think of the time when you started to drive a car.  At first you had to think to make the gear changes and about keeping the car on the road. Then after driving for a few years, the car seemed to be driving on autopilot.

A coach helps by keeping the client on track. The coach knows what is going on and can push harder or back off depending on your needs. A coach keeps you focused and accountable. A coach can observe you from the sideline and it is usually obvious where the little mistakes are made.  Just as my tennis coach can see when my grip or my swing is wrong, a business coach can see where a business owner gets it right or is making mistakes. He can then encourage you to keep going or when things are not working out stop you from repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Thanks to this bit of wisdom I am encouraged to go back for more coaching and to stick to my desire to play tennis. I am more in control of my expectations and now know that it does take patience and practice (and quite a bit of coaching in my case.)