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Tennis Business #107 Owner V. Victim Mentality

Be An Owner, Not A Victim

You are in charge of where and how you work. You either accept conditions as they are and work within them with good cheer, work to change them for the better, or leave to go build something somewhere else.

Act Like An Owner

One of the guiding principles for my every action in the tennis industry is to ask myself the question, “If I owned the place, how would I act?”, or “What would the owner want me to do?”. Many times that means stopping to pick up a piece of trash in the parking lot, hanging the court sheets just so, printing as neatly as I can on them with my hand. It also means treating the members of the member owned club, like owners, because they are part owners. Everything I do at a member owned club is deferential to the owners, and the rules they have established for all the other owners to live by.

The Service Of Clients

I own my services, but I also want to foster ownership in my students, so I share control of how the lesson goes with my students. Over the years, my control of how the lesson proceeds has become much closer to 50/50 and in some cases it’s less than that, because the client has a very clear vision of what the benefits are for them. I have been accused many times of talking too much about myself. That complaint comes from people who are not on the court. Strangely enough, a few of my clients really want to know what I and my family are up to. Part of the therapeutic effect for them is that someone is talking to them. In their work, they stay in their cave, they don’t get much interaction, and the other people in their lives are not free with information. I sometimes feel self conscious talking so long, but when they are hanging on my every word, I realize this too is a service. I know it sounds strange and out of all of my clients only two or three like that.

Lesson Drift

Another thing that has happened over the years is a move away from strictly teaching stroke work in a lesson to warming up, learning one aspect of a stroke on groundstrokes, one on volley, one on serve, and then playing a practice set with the remaining time. I do this with clients with whom I am their only tennis, and they really look forward to it, but all my attempts to push them into playing with others has failed. Someday, I will be gone and they will have to play on their own. This transition has happened because I own the service, and I manage it to be directed to wants and desires of my client.

It took time to come to acceptance that some of my clients

are not at all ambitious to become great players.

As the conditions at that club changed with management and their response to a new board with board president, they wanted to assume more control over the tennis program. The way this presented came with a choice of accepting less money in exchange for what they called greater support. In weighing the options for giving up a large measure of the ownership for how I develop the program, while also being forced to use a very clunky automated registration system, and having to bend to more oversight, I decided not to sign a new contract. Instead, I know have full ownership of my program again, having moved to public parks, with many of my clientele following me there, and now giving much more word of mouth referrals, that they strangely did not give while I was at the club.

Decisive Action Or Passive Holding In Place?

The other choice I could have made was to bide my time, sign the contract, work through the summer and fight my own attitude to keep a smile on my face. It would have felt like adversity, but if it was an adversity I had chosen, I would still act like an owner. I would also start my search for a new position elsewhere. As it stood, the attitude of the club and it’s representatives coupled with the timing of it being mid May, that meant if I acted decisively, I would be able to build a program in the summer on park courts. There were quite a few smaller factors that I don’t want to discuss here that tipped the scales in that direction. I also felt as though God were leading me to go in a different direction, and in reality that was the greatest of all considerations. When the club first mentioned in March that it wanted to renegotiate my contract, my wife immediately saw the writing on the wall, saying “Well Honey, you had a good run”. At first I was taken aback by that statement, and was determined to do my best to negotiate well. In the end, she was right. I had a good run. The main point being that I would have considered staying in the short term if I did not have good prospects to immediately start working somewhere else. The maxim, it's easier to find a job while you still have one is certainly true.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Being an owner means you realize that these things have a life span. Being a victim stems from a sense of entitlement that things will never change. Victimhood comes from an expectation that we are owed something that really does not belong to us.


Being an owner and encouraging ownership in those around you is an attitude of life. It means taking the bull by the horns. The more you wait on things to happen, instead of making things happen, the longer you will wait. Having an ownership mentality is also attractive to those who have the same mindset. If you have a victim mentality, you will also attract those same kinds of people.

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