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Tennis Business #103 Be Understanding

When you have a client at your club, they might be a regular lesson taker. They might want private lessons, clinics, hitting sessions and the ball machine. This person might simply want to pay their dues and play often, never improving, but simply enjoying the game, and they do not want to be solicited for lessons, EVER. You will have clients who take their lessons elsewhere for whatever reason, and you might know or not know the reason. Tread lightly on trying to know that. It’s best to simply understand that is the way it is. Maybe the reason is because you have never asked them to take one with you. Most people are somewhere in between these extremes.


What's On The Menu, Boss?


The most successful chefs make a variety of foods in their genre, because not everyone likes fish, steak and/or eggplant. In the same way you as the coach need to understand the appetites of your players, and create as many offerings as you can to meet those desires. One thing I know, I don’t make Big Macs, and there are quite a few fast food type tennis options out there, but as a wise and presumably high end tennis coach you don’t want to compete with those, because then you also have to be inexpensive.


One of my favorite life coaches, Steve Chandler, says, “Money loves speed.” When you can deliver an effect faster than anyone else, then people will pay more for that. I often tell people that I will teach them 4 times as much as the the coach who charges half as much, and that means they will also learn and play in a shorter time, and have more time executing the way they want for longer, and go to much higher levels of enjoyment sooner.


Money loves speed. ~ Steve Chandler


The Bigger Picture


Get into the improvement game. Understand this, it’s nearly universal that people are strongly attracted to people who are interested in their improvement. Those that are not interested in such things, stay away from them, or at least don’t bother trying to push them too hard. I will say it again and again, and I don’t care if you have heard me say it before, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” You can take your services, community and engagement to a whole new level when you show more concern for the persons lifespan and overall competence to meet challenges, than you do for a win today, or a lesson this week. I recently had a player return after a full year off having dealt with breast cancer. I kept in touch with her through the entire ordeal, texting her every month, a few times a month to get updates. Is she ever going to take lessons from another pro as long as I am around? I don’t often hug my students, but when she returned I gave her a big hug.


Which Flavors Do They Like?


Many players really want the lesson to be a workout, others need to talk and it becomes a mental health session. You will find players who don’t want you to talk or keep it minimal, and others who want to know about your personal life. The more people that you can meet where they are, the more engagement and community you can build. Also, it’s good to know when you are not a good fit with someone, and many times after one lesson I can tell that this player is going to do better with someone else. Less frequently, they will do better with anyone else. Rarely, there is a player that I simply don’t want on my court. Understanding your client means that you and they can collaborate in regard to what training looks like.


Customize, Customize, Customize


I had a great interview with Alistair McCaw, who is one of the very best trainers in the world, and has worked with over 9 different athletes ranked #1 in the world. He customizes training based on what is interesting for them. One such player really loved basketball, another wanted to train on the beach, others loved lifting weights, others TRX, etc. He gives them as complete a training regimen, maximizing their interest, and minimizing their pain point of asking them to do some activities that are not their favorite, but necessary for their full development. Unfortunately, many tennis players have a notion that if they get together with their team to play a few sets of doubles, that it counts as practice.


...But, Feed Them Their Vegatables


If you can get your players to practice serves and returns, lobs and overheads, passing shots and volleys, topspins and slices, they should be ready for almost anything. Good luck with that! Figuring out how to reach them is the fun part.


One trick that I use to get men to take lessons, is that I watch them play. When they lose, I left them know it was a tough match. Then I ask them if they want to work on a couple things to help them win those matches. In a few weeks time, they will be on court with me. Once they see a win, or that they are getting closer to winning, then they are hooked. Once Steve beats Bob, it won’t be long before Bob comes for a lesson.


Find The Life Of The Party


For clinics, make sure a popular lynch pin person is signed up and that they find enough friends to make it fly, then post the sign up sheet. Never post an empty sign up sheet, or allow a new or unpopular player sign up first. Few people want to sign up for the unknown. If those players join after a lot of your fun good players join, it diminishes the pain of the grouchy complainer. It’s also good to make the clinic player directed, because the players will talk and they will say that they never got to work on what they wanted. A couple months back, we had to shift twice from one thing to the next because one player was having a misunderstanding about what we were doing and what my plan was for the clinic. I’m sure the ladies explained to her that I was catering to her assertions, and it was ok that the clinic was chaotic for about 10 minutes. That is far preferable, than me being in complete control and for them to feel like I don’t listen.


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