Adversity, Chaos and Flow: The Bigger Plan

KAOS v. CONTROL

Styrling, who sometimes needs to be placed in the ‘Cone of Silence’, referenced that snarky old TV show Get Smart. It was a show that depicted the protaganists of CONTROL against the antagonists of KAOS. We all naturally want to feel a sense of control over our outcomes, but some amount of chaos is always there.  Chaos to many means – adversity!

Adversity for Coaches

How can a trip to Southern California be full of adversity? Styrling and I are back from our trip, which in one word was amazing.  What made it most amazing?  There were so many things that went wrong. We had already committed ourselves upon Styrling’s arrival to follow the path set before us, which meant that most of what we had previously planned, did not happen according to our plan, but another bigger plan which we could not see in the beginning.

Long story short, I picked up Styrling from the airport and immediately everything went wrong. We tried to go to a, ‘In and Out Burger’ place, but it was closed. We had an appointment to get a bank account for USATennisCoach, but yours truly left vital paperwork at home. We did find an In and Out, but it was a claustrophobic zoo of people. We had planned to visit Venice Beach, which was not far away, but finding a parking spot was amazingly difficult.  NOT FUN.

Appointments We Didn’t Know We Had

Then the reason for all that started to come into focus. As we were walking to the beach, a visiting man from Greece, pulled up next to us in a panic. Frantically he asked for help, because he was locked out of his friend’s house, his cell had died, and he did not know how to find his friends work. I asked, “Is it hard to find someone to help you around here?” He said, “Yes!!”  Styrling got out his phone found the simple directions and we sent him on his way. It was part of the bigger plan.

As we got onto the beach area, we had a decision, walk along shops and houses, or go straight to the beach. Styrling said, ‘Beach’.  Off we went. Just as we were about to get our feet in the sand, a young couple asked me if I would take their picture.  I happen to be great at getting people to give very candid and warm poses, so of course I said yes. Styrling made, ‘Styrling face’, and said, “Hey wait, weren’t you two at the In and Out Burgers?”  It turned out to be true, and what are the odds of that?  It seemed more than a coincidence.

We had a great time of pre-planning with contingencies for the rest of the weekend, and then on the way back and out we stopped by the outdoor weight lifting area at ‘Muscle Beach’.  After watching some incredibly fit athletes performing for folks, the muscle guys noticed Styrling, calling him over to chat, we have some great video on this…  An instantly great moment of friendship ensued and we got to know Andrew and Ike as well as you can in 20 minutes.  Strangely enough, they both said that they don’t spend a lot of time at Muscle Beach, but we caught them in their window.

Ripple Effects

Would any of this have happened if: A. We had gone to In and Out successfully before our bank appointment? B. If our Bank Appointment had been a full hour as planned? C. We had gone somewhere else to eat?  (Styrling and I argued briefly about his determination to go to In and Out immediately).  The answer is no. Perhaps we would have had other encounters, but those were the day’s lessons. What does it all mean?  We don’t know, but the engagement that we brought to each meeting seems to have been the real mission. The bigger plan was taking over our day, and we were just fine with that.

More Chaos from Communication and Expectations

Saturday we had a full day of filming planned, and there was a major difficulty that I don’t want to explain fully. Never look a gift horse in the mouth!  The players who were graciously provided to us, were both too young, and too much in the low-intermediate range. Only one player had the skill set for us to show what we wanted to show. We did not panic.  We started with the group we had, and we will show video on that… as we began to problem solve, more players closer in ability to what we were looking for started to show up. This saved the day!

However, it turned out that in true three-way communication fashion, the amount of time of commitment to the filming was different in their minds.  When that was discovered, a full scale survey of all the players and parents took place during the time Styrling was presenting and filming. Only 4 players would be able to stay, and only for a fraction of the time we had hoped.  My first thought was that it wasn’t ideal, and it could wreck my two handed backhand presentation.  Amazingly, every single kid made a very strong contribution, by collaborating with us, communicating with honesty, and making the whole thing work very well.  We think you will be proud of the content that comes out of it.

Walking without a Net, Finding Perfect Balance

It’s a scary feeling to walk the tight rope without a net. Working with players you have never worked with and maybe never met, in order to show a concept.  What if it goes poorly?  Styrling and I are so confident in the principles we teach, we know that most every player is going to really engage with us, as we seek to engage with them. Every segment was a smash!

Normally when I do my program on teaching four styles of two handed backhand it takes six to ten subjects to show each of the four styles.  It would be easy to have six subjects and have NOT have one or two of the styles shown as being effective for any of the six. The bigger plan had something ready for us. Among the four players, all four truly exhibited four distinct styles, and each player had a magic moment where they hit a ball cleaner and better than they ever have before. That was amazing, it really saved the day.  I believe there is a connection between the commitment Styrling and I made together to ‘follow’, with how amazingly everything turned out.  In fact, just prior to meeting the Greek guy who needed help, Styrling had said a few times, well isn’t this amazing the timing of writing a blog post about facing adversity, because look how much we just faced in such a short time.

As it turned out, I was able to have my wife ship paperwork to us overnight, and we were able to get an appointment at the last available slot.  If our program had been completely full of players with an expectation of working past 3pm, that plan would have been a wreck. So the amount of players turned out to be just perfect.  Besides, we fed the kids some good thin crust pizza at lunch time.

Keeping Space for Availability

Prior to the trip we had some un-programmed time, and we had reached out to some different high profile coaches to see if we could hang out, spend time, and perhaps create content (that was our agenda). I was also in contact with friends who live in SoCal to see about a visit, but what ended up working out is that Frank Giampaolo, one the greatest people you would ever want to meet in tennis, invited us out to dinner, and to stay at his house. The graciousness that exists amongst the very best coaches is amazing, and Frank is a leader in this area.

Open to Input from Others

We had some fantastic discussion and Frank’s wife Linda came up with one of the most insightful quotes of the weekend.  We were talking about coaches as listeners, and she said something to the effect of, “The reason people don’t listen better, is that they are so preoccupied with proving that they also bring something of value to the conversation. Being quiet and actually listening, in our current society, brings a connotation of being less intelligent, less engaging.”

In the morning we spent time interviewing Frank on his Emotional Aptitude for Sports, which we captured on video and in audio only format.  We then spent about 45 minutes having a back porch discussion that was also recorded, in a free flowing format, which will be fun to see and hear.

To sum this all up, Styrling I faced many challenges, but all along we looked for the bigger plan, worked together, problem solved and made the best of a situation.  At one point Styrling talked about turning lemons into lemonade.  Our teamwork and friendship deepened as we could see the way out and through, working together seamlessly by reading each other, listening, and opening up to multiple solutions.

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