Anyone for tennis? 4 ways tennis links to coaching
Why talk about tennis? More particularly, why talk about me learning tennis? Can that possibly be interesting or relevant to anyone who is thinking about finding a life coach, or anyone who is a coach?
Well, I would say yes! Not because of the tennis, not because of my story of endless balls hitting the net or whizzing miles out of court. No, it's relevant because it's about learning something new and how that feels. The fear. The thrill.
I took up tennis last year as a 62 year old who really hadn’t played at all before and I’d like to tell you what it is about my experience that is so transferable to the life coaching domain.
1. The coach/client relationship
Always trailed as the most important part of any therapeutic relationship but my one-to-one tennis lessons could not have been a more perfect example of this. My tennis coach understands the weird mix I am: lacking confidence, having a desire to learn, anxiety (especially with my serve!) all whilst wanting to have fun along the way.
This is immensely comparable to many coaching relationships. Good, effective coaches tune into their client’s needs and create a relational, supportive and at times challenging setting where learning and change can happen.
Who would think that I would become more self-aware playing tennis? But encapsulated in this hour is how I feel about learning, about failure, and about success, about my belief that it is important to give something a go (even when it ends badly). Sounds deep for an 8.30am tennis lesson, right?
But this self-awareness spills into my day-to-day life, allowing me some perspective on how I approach different tasks and roles during the day.
In the same way, being coached helps raise self-awareness, giving the client the opportunity to learn more about themselves, how they interact at work, or at home, (or on the tennis court), what works and what doesn’t. While this can be unsettling, it is empowering too.
3. Facing fear
Anything that involves change, might equally involve fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear that I might fall short. In my tennis lessons I learnt a bit about putting this fear into perspective. What is the worst that can happen? A ball into a net? Looking a bit foolish?
If fear can stop us trying to do something we want to do, even just learning a new sport, what might it do in other more important areas of our lives, such as taking a chance on that job or that relationship?
Coaching gives a client the chance to look that fear right in the eye. Is that thing really so scary, so very risky? Having the time, with a coach alongside, helps the client look at the reality of the situation, to work out what steps might be taken to overcome that fear, to take that leap.
If it’s all too easy (not often the case for me in relation to tennis!) that would be boring. If it’s too difficult that would be demoralising. I would give up, the mountain would be too steep to climb.
The right level is a level that motivates, a level that is possible but not too easy. It stimulates. A failure isn’t a catastrophe, a success is a boost.
And so, too, in coaching. We want to make progress, that is why we are being coached, and that, of course, will involve challenge. The coach’s role is to support their client during this process, encouraging them to reach that bit further, to have faith that success is possible, and that setbacks along the way aren’t a catastrophe, but just part of how we learn.
All in all, it is just step by step, and we know a step is possible.
If you think you would like to take a small step outside your comfort zone, I would be happy to be alongside you in that venture (and guaranteed no tennis balls involved). Message me for your first hour free.
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