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A New Chain for a Bike with No Wheels

A New Chain for a Bike with No Wheels!

Yes it’s shiny! New parts always are. The question is not is it better than the last chain. The question is …. Is it the part that we need?

Today I was asked to update a resource that I wrote ten years ago! I cringe when I see a video clip of me so I shudder when I read something I wrote ten years ago! My question is not does this badly need an update, because it clearly does. The question is do we really need another instruction manual? Do we need another teaching system, a way to deliver lessons that was different from last year or the year before. Yes we are evolving, our company name was created with that in mind, and yes we can fit the new shiny chain and and crank the pedals but are the wheels there? And even if they are do we have a few punctures.

Last week I was engaged online with my friends at Pickleball! When I say engaged I means like a tennis match on opposite sides of the net! Watching the rise of Pickleball to me is like watching downhill skiing when I was a kid, I marveled at the speed at which the skier navigated each gate but secretly I wanted to see a spectacular crash, young boys never change. Thankfully we do grow up! PB is not gonna crash, not any time soon but each time someone tells me it’s the future, I have to chip in and fight for tennis. Just so I am clear, no you won’t die if you cross to the dark side where the balls are plastic and don’t have the addictive, glorious smell when you pop the can, yes you can admit that you like to play both and yes there are some serious skills in PB, but also don’t tell me that it’s somehow going to help tennis.

Tennis needs to find it’s wheels again, although hard to admit, we as coaches have been the sole champions of the sport for too long and that is part of the problem. In the quest to keep the wheels on we have searched for the holly grail of coaching, uprooted the saplings, planted the seeds in the greenhouse and tended them with a telepathic like focus. Why wouldn’t we, on the face of it, it’s where the money comes from! Unfortunately the tallest trees are rarely to be found under glass and the tennis ecosystem has suffered. While we focused on making ends meet the magic circles with all the spokes that make the journey a joy, got lost!

So where do we find the wheels? The wheel was invented to get things from one place more efficiently, to make the journey more enjoyable, to create a means to make the journey. And like any journey it starts with the “why!” Why do you teach? Why do you love tennis? Why is the lesson valuable to this player! Are we making the WHY the center of our programs?

And now we get to the message that I could not get to in as concise a way as I should have!

What would happen if 2021 was the year where every club, coach and parent valued the social opportunities that tennis presents, where every club, coach and parent looked at competition as a chance to learn and play without the focus on climbing the ladder to who knows where, if every club, coach and parent looked at tennis as the opportunity to put behaviors in focus and recognized and rewarded them above all else. Ok, I’ll admit its utopian and that is not gonna happen but what if you did it? Just you! And then you became a few and the few became an us!?

This all sounds romantic and maybe not precise enough for some. You may be whispering, “yeah but what about growing tennis players?” The irony, of course, is that if we stop focusing on the minutia of what to teach and instead on building and shaping better places (talking environments not swanky facilities) to play we would create more and better players. Kids get good when they love to play, when the pull of the game makes them want to learn more, when they compete against their friends in their own time, when they practice!

The wheels are there to be found, in fact Pickleball’s success is founded on copying a model that was founded on the most hallowed ground in sport, a tennis court! The Pickleball experience that some are heralding was my first experience of tennis! It was social, we played with friends, competed in our own clubs and yes then, we took lessons because we loved it! Does the iphone 12 version of this need to be different, yes of course sucess is never found by going backwards, everything has to evolve but fundamental needs have not changed. People want to connect, create, compete (without judgement) and be part of something!

Is a shiny new chain nice? Of course! Do you need it? Well that depends how rusty you are feeling! But will it make a huge difference to the growth of our game? Not without the wheels!

Happy 2021! Mike

PS: I agreed to update the resource but only if I can be part of a blueprint for the whole bike!


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