Brad Gilbert is one of my favorite tennis players of all time. But here's the thing – it's likely you don't him. That's not because I'm suggesting you don't know anything about tennis (which you may or may not). No, my point is that he was never a household name.
But even if you don't know tennis, here's what I like about him that you can appreciate. He was probably one of the most strategic tennis players to ever have played the game. He literally had no special strength. It wasn't a fast serve, a strong forehand or a rapid backhand. Instead, he was just a solid player. Consistent. With a keen mind.
You see what he did was play different tennis every time he played the game. He chose his style based on his opponents weakness. If the opponent played fast, he slowed the game down. If his opponent played slow, he sped things up. Basically, he was consistently annoying.
And this led to upset victories over some very well known players.
Bet you know Andre Agassi
But this isn't a post about Brad Gilbert the player. Because after he retired, he spend the next several years working as a coach. He coached Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, and one more guy: Andre Agassi.
Because without a Brad, it's unclear you'd have heard much about Andre. Andre has called Brad “the greatest coach of all time” and it was the ability to help Agassi learn to be consistent player that helped him from 1994 until 2002. Twice a week (during the off-season), they would train.
But have you heard of Reyes?
But Agassi didn't only have Gilbert in his corner. He also worked with a guy named Gil Reyes. It was Reyes who helped Agassi with conditioning. Hours on the court, hours weight training, and then hours sprinting. Gilbert took a guy who could bench 135 and turned him into an older guy who could bench 350.
At 35, Agassi said this, “Gil is the reason why I've won more Slams after the age of 29 than I did before. He's the reason why I'm still out there playing this sport at a time in my life when I can really understand and appreciate it.”
High Performers Hire Coaches
When you look at Agassi's career, you note one thing more than anything else. He played a good long time. He played over 20 years and even though people thought his career was over in 1997, he was no. 1 again in 1999. There's no question he had the talent to pull it off.
But he had one other thing – which you can guess by now.
He had coaches. People who were outside of himself. Outside of the day to day mix of what he was dealing with. People who weren't distracted by the things that distracted him. Or stressed by the things that stressed him out.
These coaches could look at his game (from an outside perspective) and add value. They could prepare him. Condition him. Train him. Challenge him. And help him adjust his game to compete better. To find the openings that would allow him to compete stronger and win more.
Andre Agassi isn't the only one
Lest you think this is a special case, just about every single high performing tennis player has a coach. And it's not just tennis. Turns out golfers like Tiger Woods have them too (swing coaches). And runners have them. Oh, and business people have them too.
Sometimes you're so caught up in your business that you're only thinking about the next thing you have to do.
When you find yourself there, you might miss the fact that you've stopped asking questions. You're just “doing” and not “evaluating” or “analyzing” or “reflecting.” One of the things I do with everyone I coach is ask them questions. You know what I hear more often than not?
“I should know the answer to that, but I don't.”
That's because they're caught up in their business, working it. Not running it. Their business is running them.
Do you need a Coach?
Every year I work with 5-10 startups and companies as a coach. The arrangement differs depending on where your business is at (from a revenue generation perspective). And I can't help everyone. But if you're looking for someone with some outside perspective, tell me a bit about yourself below.
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