“Whoa There Big Kid” Tennis Anyone? What does that mean?
I loved playing sports in high school and still do today. The two sports I fancied were soccer and tennis. A noncompetitive sport I loved was playing golf. Having parents who belonged to a country club allowed for lots of tennis and golf. I thought I was all that and more on the tennis court. Guess what, the coach did not think so. “Whoa there big kid”.
I was a varsity singles player. I owned the court and did not have to share a point earned or lossed. It was my game from the first ball served. I started off playing tennis in grade school with an old wooden racket I found in a neighbors garage. When most kids were riding their bikes, the tassels on the handle bars whipping in the wind, I was hitting a ball against the back of a wall at the outdoor gym of my grade school. I actually got a lot of pleasure in those afternoons of back and forth hitting. I admit that at times I would work out the problems with teachers by pretending they were on the wall and each ball was nailing them. I am a non-violent person, which I contribute my calm disposition to working out energy and angst on the tennis court.
That young singles varsity player was in for a big surprise. The coach came to me one day and decided she needed to put the breaks on that ego from some punk high school girl. And she did in the worst possible way. She made me a doubles player in the forth seat position. Not fair. Lots of tears, and then I got quiet. I listened to her yelling on the court to “SHARE THE COURT”, “LET PATTI TAKE THAT BALL”, “STAY OUF OF PATTI’S SPACE”. “I am a freaking singles player”, would run through my mind each practice. All I knew how to be, and how to play was to own the court, not share it. It was humiliating to be in this position. I wanted to play tennis but not if it meant getting yelled at all the time and playing doubles. I did not leave the team. That would not have been cool. But believe me I sure put up an internal and at times external fight.
One day the coach showed up with a long expandable rope. Kind of like a super long rubber band. She tied it around my waist, and my partner’s waist. Then she looked at me and said, “now Elizabeth this rope is never to touch the ground. As a matter of fact it needs to stay taunt. This will keep you out of Patti’s space and teach you how to be a team player. If this touches the ground you are going to be running laps.” Why the heck is she doing this to me? Practice began, and I ran more laps that day than I ever had to run in soccer. (soccer coach also seemed to like that lap running thing)
As the days unfolded I learned how to play as team. Our team of two, Patti and I would never have been able to play like we did if I kept going at it in the manner that I did. I was “not all that and more”, and the coach, in her wisdom was going to break that twinky high school girl. I was never asked to play singles again and my partner and I became a solid and strong team. I gave her space, and gave her confidence to follow through each time I stepped out of her way.
The lessons have never left me. Humility was taught, handed, and bread into my heart. “Whoa there big kid.” What did that really mean in high school? It meant that you are not all that and more, so take a break, roll it back and lets play some tennis.
Those important lessons have followed me in my career. As a consultant, I am really working as a coach. I have met people who need to hear “Whoe There Big Kid”. Running and playing and doing what they think is going to grow their business, or their team solid, only to be going at it alone and wondering why they are over worked, tired, and no longer able to fuel the passions that started that business, design, or idea. One valuable lesson I learned on that tennis court was how my partner gained confidence, when I took off my ego hat and allowed her to shine. Stepping back, allowing her to miss a lot of balls until she mastered the back hand return. She would never have been able to master that if I kept jumping in with my powerful forehand shot. Do you have a team around you? Are you able to step back and allow them to grow? Allow them to shine? Is your ego so inflated that you are blind to what resources you have around you? Are you building the confidence in how your team performs? Are you teaching them to be confident, or are you running and jumping to take the shot, ragged in your one man show?
It is not easy taking a few steps back in the seating arrangements. Forth Seat in tennis is the bottom of the totem pole. What I learned taking a few seats back were and still are today, life lessons.
I went on to play city league tennis in my home town. When I signed up I checked the box “doubles player”. I learned the value of sharing my space, as in the court and working with a partner. I loved it and today, some 15 years later that first tennis partner in city league, is still one of my closest friends. My last small business grossed over 15 million dollars. Not bad for a small city girl in her 20’s at the time. I am thankful today, for those lessons learned on a tennis quart. The volume of growth my company had was not my own doing. It took a team of people, their ideas, and me not jumping into their space. It took me taking a deep breath and experiencing some losses, in order for growth in an individual. I have always been more comfortable in helping build smaller business. Perhaps feeling a bit like my tennis coach and teaching others how to shine in the passions they are growing in their own business.
In the new business ventures I have the honor of working with, I love coaching and developing skills of an individual. I love being behind the scenes and seeing that company grow and it’s owners shine. How are you doing? Do you need a coach saying “Whoa There Big Kid?” I know I needed one and still do a lot of self checking. Are you standing alone? Or you managing a team single offhandedly?Today, look for someone to help you move up a few seats. If managing a team, look around your office, look at your calling lists, look to those whom you lead and allow an opportunity to rise up so that person can shine. Esteem with confidence, humility and boldly take a few seats back. It costs you nothing, and your words, actions, coaching and leadership can be the confidence building that teaches that person to be more than they or you ever imagined. The gains far out way the losses. “Whoa There Big Kid
Let me know some ways you have stepped back and allowed others to shine? Perhaps you are needing to be moved to the next seat forward to shine in your business. I would love to come alongside and help. If you are considering hiring an outside person to help brand and market your business I would love to take that rope and tie one on you, and on me and work together as a team. Feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more. Friendship does not cost a thing, and tennis is not my only game I like to play. Tennis anyone?