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Tennis Business #105 Be Creative And Flexible

Last year I had a client who came to me with the idea of starting a new tennis clinic with ladies from a particular social group at the club. Admittedly, the club administration was very loose with the controls they had over creation or management of such things. I had the flexibility granted to me contractually to pretty much do as I pleased within reason. Having said all that, we formed the clinic to run at a certain time, and the members of the group included me in a text group chat, and there was a google document that was used for registration. It was a marvel of the modern age.

It Could Be A Pleasant Surprise

This group became the highlight of my week. I am naturally sarcastic and they also got me with some zingers, and we had a great time. I was quite proud of the group that started with one or two intermediates and many absolute beginners, and how they became legitimate social doubles players. They all, nearly always came late to the clinic. I offered to make the clinic later by 30 minutes, but they said no. Instead, we maintained the same schedule, but generally it started with one player, and sometime around the 15 minute mark we would have our full compliment, or I would learn that someone was not coming. This tested my mental and emotional flexibility, and I did my best to flex the activity based on having only 3 players, or up to 9 players, and how we would keep that moving. The warm up time, which featured a lot of socializing was extended longer than I ever wanted it to be, but whose clinic is this anyway?

Be OK With Imperfection

It wasn’t always perfect, in fact far from it, but the ladies really enjoyed it most every time. I empowered them to speak their minds, and I got a lot of feedback from that. There were times that things could become chaotic for a period of time, because someone misunderstood what I was trying to establish in my drills, and instruction, so they would argue. I then would respond to the loudest voice. We shifted everything on the fly. Then the others corrected the loud one and explained to her what I was trying to do, and it was better done that way, than for she and I to have a direct one on one conflict. If it sounds messy, you are right, but tell me if you run perfectly clean clinics with a wild group of interchangeable 15 players who come on and off. Having left that club, I have to say I miss that clinic, those ladies, because it was so fun, and we did a lot of kidding around. They stated again and again that their main objective for coming was the social aspect. There was a lot of discussion of issues of the day, whose kids are doing what, a problem that happened at the club, etc. It’s important to give people what they really want, instead of holding up an image of perfection for what a seamless clinic looks like. Lord knows I tried to tease, cajole, encourage, and remind, but ultimately the clinic participants got what they wanted.

For The Kids

Another splinter group of parents, whose kids were in a certain class on a certain day, asked if they could start the same level and age class on a different day. I said that as long as they get a minimum number of players to make it run, then we could. It worked in my schedule, and I might have done a bit of shuffling if needed to make it work. I also let them know that on any day when there are not enough players, then it will become a semi-private or private lesson. This was acceptable to them.

Sometimes You Have To Say No

Of course there is a limit to flexibility. You have to consider the harm done when you displace someone from a certain slot, because there is a change in the program coming up. I try to give people months of notice when there will be a change in the program. This give them time to plan and cope with the change. So late in November, if I know I am going to make changes in February or March, then I let them know that changes are coming, even though I won't say exactly what they are until January. I also, give people options of what I can do, and if none of those work for them, then it’s unfortunate, but I have a limit on my flexibility, in that I am not going to change things with a current client to accept a new one. It can be a hard conversation, but a necessary one. There are limits, and we have to say no, and do so graciously with the best spirit of service. You also have to be resolute in regard to saying no to ideas that violate your ethics, the club mission, or other overriding principles.


Ultimately, when you can direct people with how they can receive the services they want, even if its with another service provider, that’s what is best for the game. I and some of my colleagues in the coaching fraternity do this all the time.


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