Bruce Levine is the owner and CEO of tennis2tennis; a consulting company that helps tennis clubs grow their businesses. Bruce has been a club owner and general manager as well as a teaching professional and coach. Bruce has played on the ATP Mens Tour and also coached players who play on the mens and womens tours. Bruce is on the Board of Directors of the USTA Middle States and the USPTA Middle States as well as serves on several National Committees for both organizations. Bruce also does racquet testing for Tennis Magazine and tennis.com and has a radio show at 720degrees.
Tennis is a great game and a great business. I have had the wonderful fortune to be involved for nearly 37 years. One of the things that I have been lucky enough to learn is that tennis is a great corollary for life. I will also tell you that without the education I received on the tennis court, I would not have been asked to write this blog!
I played half of a year of college basketball and really hated every minute of it, so when I stopped, I had to do something. Someone gave me a tennis racquet and said “you should try this game - I bet you’ll be good at it”. Needless to say, that person was smart and I was lucky to have him in my life.
Lesson 1: Everything happens for a reason!
As I progressed into college tennis and onward, I was taught a number of important lessons. These lessons transcend the game and really do help me in my everyday life. I spent some time on the men’s tour and went 3 months without winning a match, and I played lots of them! Thus:
Lesson 2: No one is going to give you anything, you have to earn it!
The more I played, the better I got and the harder I worked, because my goals and objectives were in sight. They were “reachable”. There were times when I felt that I was totally out on the court alone, in a place where no one spoke my language, ate my kind of food, knew who I was or cared what happened to me. I learned at points during each match, that I could be up or down, but regardless, the match continued and it was not over until it was over. I could not expect that, because I won the first set, my opponent would automatically lose the second and/or third; I had to EARN each point, each set, and each match!
Lesson 3: You can grow from failure!
As I went on, I learned more about tennis, but more importantly about myself. I had a lot more in the tank than I thought, but I had to control the energy and thoughts. Many times – many, many times, I would miss a shot that I had made a trillion times in practice, in my sleep and in my dreams. And, in the beginning, I would go off the wall! Eventually at small tournaments, once I learned I had to control my emotions in a healthier way, I used to go sit in the front row of the bleachers and hand my racquet to the closest girl in the audience and say “here your turn, I don't seem to be doing too well out there”! This made me laugh and usually made her laugh as well; sometimes if I was lucky I even got a date! I turned my frustration into a moment where I could grow. This proved better for my attitude throughout the rest of the match and beyond.
Lesson 4: Kill ‘em with kindness! Even when you’re frustrated!
As a player and tour level coach, I travelled, A LOT! If you understand air and train travel you know that you have little or no control over what happens due to weather, extenuating circumstance and the like. I was always amused at the person who got to the front of the line at the ticket counter and yelled at the poor ticketing employee, trying to bully them into getting their way. Who do they think is going to help them? Certainly not that person!
I got better seats, more help, and better service by speaking kindly; people appreciate that. Remember the ticket person is just doing their job and didn't create the problem; you losing your patience with them isn’t going to solve the problem! Keep your cool!
Lesson 5: Pay attention to how people act on the court; you can learn a lot about the type of person they are.
I also learned a lot about how to judge others by playing matches, which has helped me in business. Playing against someone who attacks the net often, either behind their serve or early on in a point tells me that the person is aggressive. Someone who stays back and just keeps the ball in play will be more docile and passive about things. When I began to deal with sales reps and even parents of players I coached, I always tried to get them out on the court before a meeting.
Lesson 6: Take a step back and assess the situation.
When I stopped travelling on the tour, which brought me all over the world, I got to sit back and see how fortunate I was. I spoke (or at least could count in) about 5 languages, understood many different cultures and lifestyles and had eaten more types of food than my stomach would like to recall. I had lived for 8 months in the former Yugoslavia, got stuck in Sao Paulo Brazil when Pan Am went belly up, survived an earthquake tremor in Tokyo Japan, travelled by boat, bus, train and plane to get from place to place; just to name a few. I could go on for a long time but the point is this…
Lesson 7: Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Variety is the spice of life and we should all accept and embrace others from different cultures and ways of life. Learn from each person and it will help you be a better person and appreciate what you have and those around you!