Yes really … there’s a connection
OK – bear with me! I know at least one Olympic sportsman who might smile at this post and other high level athletes among you who could well howl laughing. I’m clearly not some sporting, ATP wunderkind champion, turned coach, just an ordinary, club level tennis enthusiast, of a certain age, with certainly more enthusiasm than skill. Like most of us! Which is why this will resonate.
Like you I play a sport. My game is tennis. Sort of. By that I mean I turn up at my club, with the right equipment, correctly attired and I participate. I like to win, but like many women will lose gracefully if I feel I’ve played well. Truthfully, I’m thrilled if I win. Sound familiar?
The right question
A life time of high impact sport has left me with a hip injury, not life threatening, just wear and tear. When I heard the news I was upset. It seemed my tennis playing days were over. Happily for me, my doubles group ( singles games rest firmly in my past) had a tennis coach who gently suggested that I was asking the wrong question. The question he told me I should be asking ask myself was not how much longer could I play tennis, but how well could I play tennis with a dodgy hip? Bearing in mind of course I live in a country where tennis and chocolate are national pastimes and are given serious consideration in equal measure. My next question will certainly be “how can I lose weight and still eat chocolate?”.
When the mind is willing but the hip is weak and you can’t play tennis with your legs, even at my very basic level, you have to play with your head (not forgetting the racquet and balls of course). We worked on strategies to win points early in the rally (tip: move me around the court for too long and unless you make a mistake… the point is yours). He strengthened my net game, serve, slice and lob. Because I can’t chase balls down like Justine, Serena or Kim (not that I ever could!), I have to step back and construct a point strategically. I have to think ahead. I have to look for gaps. I have to tell my partners they might have to step in as the “legs”. This involves communicating and taking a few risks. Some work well and actually… some are spectacularly unsuccessful. And I lose not only the point, but the game.
So how is this a metaphor for job seekers?
• It means seeking good advice and support.
• It means letting go of negative self sabotaging “can’t do, give up ” thinking and replacing it with ‘how can I?” thoughts.
• It means staying real and working on something achievable in small steps.
• It means recognising weak points in our backgrounds and experience that can make us vulnerable. But understanding that it doesn’t mean we are out of the game.
• It means that we have to adapt, learn new skills to overcome any deficits.
• It means practising. Repeat actions produce results.
• It means not taking set backs to heart. Change the strategies as required. Missing one shot doesn’t mean we’re failures – it just means we missed that particular shot.
• It requires self insight and open communication with ourselves and judiciously, when the time is right with any colleagues and / or employers.
• It means having a plan and a strategy that makes us think ahead in our chosen game.
• It means also having a Plan B
But more than anything else it means asking ourselves the right questions.
Anyone for golf perhaps?
Special thanks to Silvana Delatte ( a great tennis buddy) who thought this story was worth recounting.