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Sunday, May 27, 2012

REFLECTIONS: Opening oneself up to EVALUATION is valuable feedback

People are a constant form of instantaneous feedback. They clap for appreciation, boo to show dislike, whistle over questionable decisions, and even downright yell in protest about things they believe in. Yet when it comes time for their voices to be heard on a survey, they will usually avoid any and all that come their way.  
    Knowing this, what did I do? I asked parents of students in my group lesson programs to fill out a survey. Well, it really is more of an evaluation of services performed by myself, for them and their kids, during the six-week tennis sessions I provide through the local recreation center. Does the township require it? No, not at all. But I realize that the only way to know what works, what doesn't, and what needs adjustment, is through honest, constructive feedback. 
So here is the criterion I use for my survey:

  1. How well did the ACTIVITIES of the session align with the DESCRIPTION?
  2. Were the OBJECTIVES of the session(s) accomplished?
  3. How KNOWLEDGEABLE was the instructor in his area of expertise?
  4. Did your child acquire any NEW SKILLS as a result of participation?
  5. To what extent did the instructor present the lessons in an FUN way?
  6. Did you gain any KNOWLEDGE that is relevant to you helping your kids on the court? 
  7. Did the instructor MOTIVATE and instill the love of tennis in the kids?
  8. Was there sufficient time spent on the majority of the activities?
  9. Did the instructor keep you informed of time/date changes and/or provide avenues for you to stay informed by either phone, email, or internet?  
  10. Would you RECOMMEND these lessons to other parents for their kids?

Each of these points are rated with a scoring system of 1-4 with 4 being the highest.Generally speaking, a healthy mix of 3 and 4's are reasonable and the best one can hope for. When someone marks all fours (or all threes for that  matter), and leaves no additional comments in that section, then it raises the red flag in my mind as to whether a parent really took the time to think it through. Feedback should not always indicate perfection, and I would never expect the highest rating in every category. Yes, I admit it. I am human and prone to less-than-perfect results each and every time.
    When I go to Starbucks, I expect the drink I ordered as requested. If it is sub-par, then it is my duty to let someone know. My experience is that they will happily fix the issue. That is called service, and one should expect nothing less. When I teach tennis, my job is three fold: make sure kids are safe, they have fun, and they learn something about tennis. If I've accomplished all three, then I've done a pretty good job. But teaching kids is not quite as easy as mixing a latte. I'm watching the activities based on my initial plan, adjusting to the dynamics of the group, taking heed of the remaining time of the session, and providing additional personal attention where needed. When I take the court, the parents have expectations for their dollar, the kids have needs and wants, and I personally have standards of my own to meet. We never have a bad class, but some classes go better than others. In 70 minutes, I try to provide a mix of fun games, footwork skills, tennis technique, and some overall general tennis knowledge. But in addition, I have worked diligently toward parent engagement. If parents are active participants in their child's activity during my sessions, they may be active with their kids on their own–acting as an extension of my lessons that helps solidify their child's growth and enjoyment of this sport. This has been and always will be my mission.  
    How did I do? Well, pretty good as I've just finished my 6-week Spring session. But there are a few points I want to consider based on parent feedback. The day for me to become satisfied with where I am, with no additional growth needed, will never come. Growth is life, learning is endless, and I will continually strive to provide the best programs possible as we continue our tennis programs throughout this year.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

EPISODE 90 (Podcast): Are you smarter than a beginning player?

Looking back on your humble beginnings, perhaps it is time to appreciate all that you now take for granted on the tennis court. We all had to start somewhere, and there continue to be critical elements from where we began that may be worth revisiting.


Monday, May 21, 2012

NEWS: "Clayman" Nadal wins at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome


Nadal and Djokovic show sportmanship
The stage was set right from the outset. In the men's final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Novak Djokovic faced two break points at the hand of clay court master Rafael Nadal. But the Serbian wall did stand in that game. Then at 5-5, the wall sprung its first tiny leak as Nadal broke to 6-5. One questionable line call led to the tiniest of mental gaps from the world number one Djokovic and, before you could say Guillermo Vilas, Nadal had taken the set 7-5. Both men pounded on offense and scrambled on defense, but when the clay dust cleared, Nadal had taken his 6th trophy at the Foro Italico, won his 21st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown, and  recaptured his world number 2 ranking from Roger Federer. 

Said the 24-year-old Djokovic afterwards, "he is the best player in the world on this surface." The contest lasted two hours and 20 minutes and finished with the Djoker's 4th double fault and a final score of 7-5, 6-4. Novak has already taken the Australian Open this year where he defeated Nadal in an epic final. But Nadal has now taken the Serb twice on clay as they move towards the red clay French Open final at Roland Garros. Rafael Nadal may have found the formula he needed this year as he had seven consecutive losses to Djokivic between the Spring 2011 Indian Wells tournament and the 2012 Australian Open in January.  

I have little doubt that Djokovic will be searching deep to regain a foothold and maintain his world number one ranking as we move towards toward this years' other three Grand Slam tournaments. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NEWS: Blue clay sprouts green cash and world #2 spot for Roger Federer

Roger kisses his wife after the win.
In the case of Roger Federer, Blue is the new Green. With his historic 20th ATP World Masters Tour 1000 titles in hand, Federer has managed to win at the Mutua Madrid Open over #7 Tomas Berdych, move into 2nd in the world ahead of long-time rival Rafael Nadal, and show winning form, at the ripe old age of 30, that has him taking 45 of his past 48 matches. By the score 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, Roger has not only won this tournament for the third time, but he gets himself within a single spot of regaining the world number one ranking–chasing the elusive record of Pete Sampras at 286 weeks. Federer is currently at 285 weeks after being displaced at the top spot by Rafael Nadal in June of 2010.
    If all of this was not enough to make one insanely jealous, Federer commented, "One of the great things with me in my life after everything that I have achieved already is to be able to travel with my family and share it with them, even though they don't quite understand what's happening yet. It's just nice that they are right there with me to share it." Ok Roger, just rub it in!
    Oh, and did I mention that he walks away with a a framed black suit from the movie Men in Black III presented to him by Will Smith himself? And there was also this little thing called a check bringing the Swiss Maestro over the $70 million dollar mark in career prize money.
    Perhaps it was the luck of wearing a blue shirt and headband while playing on blue clay. We may never know.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

REPRISE: Tennis and the Power of Rotation from May 29, 2011
Video: Rotational Power of Federer and Nadal
By: TUENTRENADOR
Why is a rotating object so pleasing for us to see? 
Think of any rotating object - a ball, a sphere, or even a coin. Why do we like to watch it? read more...