When was the last time you were engaged in a conversation that was not by phone or on your phone for the matter, giving the person in front of you — in person, your full and undivided attention? Sadly, this isn’t as simple as ‘today’ for most and is carried over onto the tennis court which impedes the overall development of a player/athlete. And no, I am not saying that you are on your phone and/or a screen when coaching your player/athlete. What I am saying is that the associated behaviours around engaging and listening are built and fostered well before you step onto the tennis court and these patterns of behaviour are carried with you — onto the court.
Of course this works both ways for the coach and the non-responsive player/athlete, however if we’re focusing on those looking to progress and advance their performance, this typically isn’t as significant. Why?
Quite simply because if a coach has the capacity to engage with their players/athletes then that’s what draws each player/athlete in and the notion of being distracted to ‘disengaged’ does not as readily occur providing the coach is in tune with his/her players/athletes.
There’s no denying that most people, in particular in western culture, have taken their screen time by storm and in-person conversations to engaging communication is seldom had without a screen in some way — including talking to one person and texting another at the same time. Or one of my favourites, sitting down for a meal where each person has their phone in hand and is talking ‘with’ the person on their phone, opposed to the person actually in front of them! These behaviours have a roll on effect and begin to impact our ability to engage and more importantly, listen to what is being said.
The skill of listening is absolutely fundamental for coaches looking at advancing a player/athlete — whether towards the Top 10 or their first major tournament. It is critical in developing a coaching pedagogy that incorporates and identifies the unique qualities of each player/athlete and is modified accordingly to progress their performance. To get to this point, it is the coaches responsibility to lay the foundations — intently listening to his/her player/athlete on what their thoughts are to how they’re feeling and accommodating these to being mindful of them in each individual session.
It is also important to point out that the coach leads the way — as coaches, you’re the adult in the room being the ‘older’ person in the majority of cases when we’ve narrowed our focus on heading towards the Top 10.
It near goes without saying, if you haven’t developed your listening skills away from a screen or have the capacity to fully engage your players/athletes for the duration of a session, then it’s time for some self-reflecting — intrinsic feedback to amp up those listening skills. And for those of you who say they’re absolutely fine, I’d say think again — there’s always something we can improve upon when it comes to our ability to listen and in turn engage.
Tune in to Beyond Top 10 Tennis for this week’s episode to learn more. And if you enjoy the episode, be sure to like, follow to subscribe or even a few stars or five! In the interim, catch up on the episode notes for all of our social links (or simply scroll to the bottom of this page).