It is estimated 67.4% of all statistics are made up on the spot 😉
Yes, I am sarcastic and cynical. Not a great combination but it does make me constantly challenge things and ask questions. I can’t help but question almost every statistic I hear especially when it is used to highlight growth in tennis. I believe statistics are misused and don’t tell remotely the whole story.
Imagine being able to read great news stories on a daily basis. I don’t see any reason why we cannot start this process as it is 100% within our control. Let’s use social media and the internet to spread positive stories which inspire people into action.
In my opinion, tennis is all about people. Of course we need facilities but, at the end of the day, these are run and utilised by people. Therefore, I believe we should focus way more on the stories around people and less on the huge statistics that are often misleading.
This was the reason I created my podcast show. I love hearing where people have come from and who has helped them along the way. You will hear these types of stories on the show and I have created a link at the bottom of this blog.
So, why stories?
- They are emotive
- They are interesting
- They are inspiring
When you hear about the personal story around someone’s journey you are taken into their world momentarily. All of sudden you are empathising, feeling what they may have felt and you can relate to the emotions, positive or negative, they must have experienced.
In August 2016 I posted a photo of a young Laura Trott (Kenny now) with Bradley Wiggins. I attached the information about her being born a month premature with a collapsed lung. 12 years later she had this picture taken and a further 12 years on she was the most successful British female olympian with 4 gold medals. It was a simple post but with a strong sentiment attached and to my astonishment it was liked 66.7k times, shared by 15.3k and received over 1,000 comments. The vast majority of the comments were from mothers of premature babies, people who knew mothers with premature babies or from people who had also been born premature. It was not the statistic of being the most successful female Olympian, it was the hope it offered to people who were in the same situation as babies.
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the need for statistics to show growth but I think these are mainly used to justify spend. I am not always convinced the people delivering the statistics even care if anything good comes from the figures. It helps justify their jobs so they can rest easy for the time being. From these statistics we should be hearing about great stories which could inspire others to make things happen for themselves. So I’m not saying get rid of statistics but let the statistics sprout empowering stories.
I have headed up Judy Murray’s Tennis on the Road programme for the last 4 years and in that time we have worked with over 5,000 workforce across Scotland. This alone is an impressive statistic but it means nothing without knowing what has been done after we have left. When someone asks me about the impact of the Tennis on the Road programme, I tell some of the stories behind the people who have taken part. I am not convinced our impressive statistics have been made into stories but that is another story for another time.
So, here are just a couple of stories from the last 4 years.
3 years ago, 2 students from Abertay university received word we would be working in Dundee and they came along to one of our workshops at a local school. They then asked if they could join us and help out for the remainder of our time in the city. From that time we invited both of them to join us on a 3 day trip to the Isle of Arran. From these experiences both of them went on to gain their LTA level 2 coaching qualification with one of them now running his own multi-sports company. Both had never played tennis before that first day in Dundee. Here is what Robyn wrote after her experience.
“Since meeting Kris and Judy and helping with Tennis on the Road, it has helped my confidence massively! I have coached other sports, although tennis wasn’t exactly a sport that I thought about playing or even coaching as my hometown doesn’t have tennis courts, however once I got started with TOTR, that all changed! I enjoyed every session we done, so much so, Rhys and myself completed our Level 1 & 2 Tennis coaching courses.
The drills & games we done with the children were a lot of fun and seeing children get to learn new fundamental skills and having fun at the same time was a huge bonus! Getting children to be physically active can be a challenge in a day and age where technology use is so heavily implemented in day to day life, however with the sessions with Kris and Judy, not one child wanted to leave at the end! To have met the children possibly an hour previous and to have such a positive impact on the children was humbling to see!
Since graduating from my MSc, I started my job as a Therapy Technical Instructor at the Royal Stoke University Hospital and Dance Science Graduate Intern at University of Wolverhampton. As I have found an interest between coaching and also the rehabilitation aspect I hope to commence my studies in January as Doctorate Physiotherapy candidate back home in Scotland to enable me to combine both my interests.
The great memories and experiences we got to share with Kris and Judy were amazing and helped build my confidence and coaching ability massively. Simple, yet effective methods were taught and especially the ability to think outside the box to get the most out of small areas and large amounts of children. If anyone’s child gets the opportunity to have a session with Kris and Judy, I would advise them to grab it with both hands, they will learn so much and have fun at the same time! I can’t thank them enough for the opportunities they gave us, we learnt so much through a combination of their vast knowledge and the experience was invaluable!! Thank you so much!”
Here is what Rhys had to say.
“The time spent with TOTR with Kris and Judy have been fundamental in pursuing my coaching ambitions. I have gained greater knowledge and understanding of the basic movement and literacy skills required within Tennis, while learning this in an engaging and enjoyable environment. This has gave me aspiration to further develop my coaching capabilities to deliver high standards of coaching sessions within schools and the local communities.”
It would be great if the story of 2 non-tennis playing students inspired other sports coaches into the world of coaching.
If you want more information on Rhys’ company check out his site on http://www.radcoaching.co.uk
Mel Benson, is the principal teacher of sport at St George’s School for girls in Edinburgh. Mel’s passion for providing sporting opportunities for her pupils saw her reach out and offer the school facilities to host several events through Tennis on the Road, Miss-Hits and She Rallies. We have now trained their staff to deliver tennis to everyone from the pre-school nursery up to the 17/18 year olds playing team tennis for the school. The school now offers tennis to every pupil and with the school having a captive market, the sky is the limit with what they could achieve. Imagine the amazing stories that will come out of this environment in the years to come.
Check out the school website on https://www.stge.org.uk
These are just a couple of examples which spring to mind out of the people we have worked with in the last 4 years. I am positive there are 1000’s of stories stuck in peoples head which could be shared. If these were to be shared then they may inspire others to take the plunge and get involved in tennis.
This is my wish when I was listen to someone speak:
Governing body – instead of just statistics, provide real life case studies which tell powerful relatable stories which could inspire people in the field.
Coach – instead of rankings/status of players, provide insight to where they have come from to get to that point. The journey is way more interesting than where they’ve ended up.
Parent – instead of getting bogged down by rankings, ratings, funding and which grade of tournament, think of some stories that make you feel really proud about the type of person your child has become. You don’t even have to share these. Thinking about them will make you feel way better than all the superficial stuff.
Players – instead of comparing yourself with others, remind yourself how far you’ve come to get to where you are. Help others do the same and share those stories. The more players we have helping each other the healthier our game will become.
My suggestion to everyone involved in tennis is to focus more on the stories that come out of the statistics. Regardless of whether you work for a governing body, are a coach, a parent or a player, focus on the people involved and share their great stories with others to help inspire them to believe and take positive action.
I’m now away to check out how many people have read this blog hahahahahaha.
Joking aside, the messages I receive saying you’ve enjoyed a blog plus what you have gotten out of it by far outweigh the statistics on how many reads it has received. Keep em coming.
Check out https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/kris-soutars-tennis-journal/id1305908744?mt=2
Now get sharing all your inspirational stories. You definitely have them in you.
Wow did this post resonate with me. I was late to discover tennis (in my forties), but I fell for it hard and ended up running the community programme where I had learned to play. Unfortunately, the pressure and unpleasantness of the local representative of the governing body drove me from the job I cared passionately about. When I questioned the wisdom of spending more time on producing ‘the figures’ than actually getting the community on court, I was told that I should do it because it was what kept me in a job. What kept the governing body in jobs more like.
I was so disenchanted by the attitude that I quit the following week. I would rather not be part of that, because it seems to me to be so very wrong. Still playing, still volunteering, still trying to get more people on court more often, but no longer as part of a system that I think has things very wrong. The numbers are never the most important thing.
Kris Soutar says
Hi Ali, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I am glad you discovered tennis and sorry to hear you didn’t have a positive experience working within it. Unfortunately this is becoming too common and it is a real shame to lose passionate people only because they don’t tow the line when it comes to certain things. I very much hope you stay in the game and find a way to carve your own niche within it.