What Tennis Can Teach us About Business

Maria Sharapova and her famous backhand

I was at the country club on Saturday and I was taking a tennis lesson. Okay, so bear with me. There is a point.

Well, I’m not the best tennis player around and I honestly don’t really play enough to be one of the top-seeded players in the world…but I do get a lot out of my lessons in so many ways. And all the sports I’ve played in my life (and there are a few as I was a really athletic type) have provided invaluable insight and training for so many other areas of my life.

So, here’s what happened Saturday and my little gem for the day!

I was getting instruction on my backhand, and frankly, till Saturday, I never really got the intricacies of a good backhand. I always kind of avoided using the backhand whenever I could, i.e., running much further to position myself for my very strong forehand.

Finally the tennis pro, Rich, said that we really needed to get to the bottom of the backhand. So, we did.

And as I was learning the right positioning and he kept repeating that I had to “follow through”, I kept thinking how that applies to business. I coach my clients all the time on Follow Through.

So, I started following through on my swing and then Rich said that I had to “follow through properly” and showed me some adjustments. Well, as you can guess, I immediately thought, “Yes, Follow Through in Business is not enough. It has to be a proper and appropriate Follow Through”.

Then he said that I was getting it and that doing the motion over and over would create a “muscle memory”. Now, we all know this isn’t new but again, I applied that to business. It’s the “iteration” and the “rinse and repeat” that we are always talking about. You have to perfect the system and then just practice it. Then it’s all a Cake Walk. Okay, so more of a Cake Walk.

Then Rich said I had to “concentrate more” so I tried to banish my philosophical business musings to FOCUS. But not before I thought “Aha, yes, Focus”.

As you can see, the lesson was really a double affirmation for me. But it’s not over yet…

Rich could see that I was doing a lot of extra things and expending a lot of extra unnecessary energy where I could be far more effective if I had Economy of Action. Another Aha.

How many times do you find yourself in your business, chasing your tail or doing way too many things that don’t matter. Or doing things in a drawn out and disorganized way?

Actually, this is something I was always challenged with in every sport I have ever played or practiced. I always seemed to expend way too much energy and I tired myself out instead of pacing myself.

How many of us do that in our businesses and lives? We burn ourselves out in our projects and businesses by not pacing and not taking care of ourselves on the way. We do it in our family lives if we don’t take care.

Then when I thought that it was all I was going to get out of the lesson, Rich said, “You know Jeanne, I can see that your grip is really not relaxed enough and that is affecting your swing and the way the ball is being hit”. Whoa.

Yes. We need to relax into our activities because sure enough, being over-stressed and hyper about results actually changes the way the results are unfolding. We need to breathe and “un-tighten” the grip. It’s simply not effective.

Well, at the end of the lesson, not only had I already acquired a much better backhand, I was enjoying it and had overcome my fear of the backhand. And I had a great workout but I was not completely worn out like I usually am because I had relaxed into the game. I thanked Rich and told him it was the best tennis lesson I had ever had!

So, here’s a recap:

  • Don’t avoid or let fear keep what you are not good at yet. Dig in and discover what there is behind the fear. Maybe a really good backhand or business strategy
  • Follow through in your business but don’t do it blindly. Have a great strategy worked out and follow through on that.
  • Once you have found a system or something that works in your business, practice it until it’s second nature instead of jumping to another strategy or practice before it’s really bearing fruit. Then you rinse and repeat.
  • Focus. Focus. Focus. Don’t spread yourself too thin and have too many projects on your plate at one time. This also means no multitasking (I have a whole article on this here)
  • Practise “Economy of Action”. Pace yourself. Plan what you are doing and get a strategy instead of just going for it and wasting time and energy.
  • Try and keep stress at a minimum and breathe throughout the day. “Un-tighten” the grip. Also, stressed out people do not convey success or attract others to them.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my tennis/business lesson findings. Please comment below and let me know what you think.

Much Success and Love,


Business Strategist Coach Jeanne Omlor


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