Strange title for a tennis blog huh!
Last week I drove 27 hours for my week of work. This gave me time to do what has become a new passion, listen to 27 hours of podcasts. I did not listen to 1 minute of radio in that time. Podcasts allow me to do one of my favourite things, listen to interesting people talk to each other.
One of the moments which stuck out from all of the podcasts I listened to was when Tim Lovejoy spoke with author Mark Forsyth on his new book. It is called the short history of drunkenness. (link to episode below)
After I got over the huge shock that alcohol was not invented by us Scottish peeps I relaxed and listened to Mark talk about many interesting areas of his current and past work. The most thought provoking point he made was when asked for some life advice for the listeners. His advice really struck a chord with me.
Mark mentioned he meets lots of people who say they want to be a writer. He believes they like the idea of being a writer but, in truth, they don’t want to write. They don’t like the process of writing but they like the idea of being considered a writer. Mark’s advice was pure gold, whatever job you decide to do in the world it is about ‘doing that job’ and the analogy he gave was ‘you should never become a chef just because you like eating’. You should become a chef because you like the process of cooking and that may involve simply chopping things up and cooking them all day.
This was such a great thought provoking piece of advice and of course I instantly started to relate it to the tennis world. It strikes me that a lot of tennis coaches become so because they like the ‘idea of being a tennis coach’. It may be they genuinely love the game of tennis but being a tennis coach is not only about the end product of the game of tennis. It is about the process of helping people become better at the game of tennis. As with every walk of life the day in process of your job may be laborious and the key question is ‘do you love the process?’
A typical tennis coach will often say ‘I can’t stand the administration side of tennis’ or ‘I am rubbish at paperwork’. This can also be mentioned when it comes to working with tennis parents, working with committees, tennis associations and all of the aspects of running a business. It sometimes feels that tennis coaches think all of that gets in the way of them doing what they think their job is, being on court. Unfortunately for them the reality is all of these areas are necessary to help make their job easier. You cannot avoid these areas if you want to do your best job on the court. You must embrace the process of being a tennis coach.
This reflection could also be aimed at aspiring tennis players. Many players get into tennis with high aspirations which I believe is natural and perfectly acceptable. I am not out to squash dreams. The issue is when they set out on this journey they really have zero idea about what the journey involves. The day in day out process of becoming a genuine world class tennis player is not glamorous. It is all consuming! It will consume pretty much every minute of every day of your life. Is that a process many players understand? One crucial factor I believe is underestimated in the world of player development is the aspect of travel.
One of the comments I hear Roger Federer make more and more at this stage of his career is how he will continue to do his job as long as he still enjoys travelling. It is obvious he actually loves the process of travelling around the world. He also gives off the vibe he genuinely likes to meet new people. Just as well as everyone in the world probably wants to meet him. If you love travelling the world of professional tennis is for you. I am not talking about nice hotels and luxuries, I am talking about the process of travelling. If you don’t like travelling then I would strongly urge you not to aspire to being a pro tennis player.
I have heard many cases of players quitting the futures tour because they don’t like the travelling. What a massive shame to train up to 15 years to only then discover you are not cut out for the life. Of course most juniors experience a lot of travel when they are developing their game but the reality is most junior travel is done with friends, coaches and/or parents. When they are trying to make their way they will have to do a lot of this themselves as they can’t afford to pay coaches fees, flights and expenses. They may travel with their friends but often their friends will come out of the tournament at different stages. This often means you are split up and travel to the next event by yourself.
I have to thank Mark Forsyth for this great advice as it really hit home what is important. If you are going to choose to spend the majority of your working life aiming to become something special in your field you must embrace and enjoy the process of what it takes to make this happen and not be purely driven by a false sense of what the end goal is.
Do you enjoy the process of your job?