Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography
It was 8:30 a.m. in southern Florida and the June humidity was already oppressive, but the young players were moving with precision around the clay court as if programmed by the latest sports video game. They had been working since 7:00, Rene was barking encouragement, instruction, and though his Spanish accent made it challenging for me to understand, it was infinitely clear the students knew what he wanted.
There was little time for rest, the renowned coach’s intensity did not allow for complacency. The kids moved station to station, drill to drill with brief breaks to mop off sweat, a quick change of shirts and guzzle water. Working hard is not an option, the players self-select in or out of his program. If they are not playing with heart and soul, they are asked to sit; the mantra appears to be “if you are injured don’t play, if you play you are not injured”.
Rene Gomez has coached Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Anna Kournikova, Monica Seles (and many more), and he knows what it takes to play tennis at the highest level. He doesn’t talk to the kids about being a professional player, they only discuss and act against disciplines that take their game up one notch at a time. Once their game has been elevated, Rene turns up the heat once again—more conditioning, more strokes, more mental toughness. For many of the teenagers here, according to Rene, the only difference between them and Sharapova is toughness, both mental and physical.
1:00 and they are back on the courts playing games of keep away with a swimming pool toy. After 10 minutes of kids screaming as if participating in a summer block party they are now competing in games of win/lose. If you win you advance to the next court, if you lose you go the other way. Most every aspect of their game is worked on daily. There are approximately 15 players and each is called by their given name. Rene’s assistant coaches perpetuate the high achieving culture by demanding nothing less than extreme effort.
When players first get to camp, Rene meets with them and discusses goals; what they wish to accomplish in the short term as well as their long term dreams. He gets commitments from them that they will work harder than they have ever worked. Their swings are videoed so progress can be measured and he goes out of his way to make connections with each player. Rene knows that connecting is the first step to effective coaching.
I don’t need to spell out or draw the obvious analogies. Sales leaders, do you push your team? Do you frequently make them uncomfortable? Do you let your top producers go about their business without their games being challenged? Do you know each of your producers well enough so that each button pushed has the desired outcome? If kids from ages 9-18 are intensely improving due to a coach—have you created the improvement and performance culture with your team?
Please share what you do to challenge your team and get the most from your sales people.