Tennis Lesson from Hell


By Curtis Wilson Cost

This is a re-print of a memo that Curtis Cost sent to his staff:

Many years ago, I had a tennis-lesson-from-hell at the Maui Country Club. Steve, the club pro, came up to the edge of the net and asked me to hit the one stroke I was absolutely certain I could return successfully within his reach every single time. He would hit it back to me and we would count how many hits we could accumulate before missing a ball. He fed me a ball and we started rallying and reached 10 or 15 before I missed one. Steve re-approached the net and said again, “Hit the one ball you know you can hit each and every time.”
The next rally got to 30 or so before I missed another. Steve once again approached the net but this time he raised his voice. “Hit the one ball YOU KNOW you can get back safely!” His tone was a little unnerving and I started to wonder what gave him the right to speak to me like that. After all, I was his client, not his subordinate. Our next rally got to about 35 hits before I hit another a little out of his reach. All of a sudden, Steve threw down his racket and marched up to the net and yelled at me. “CURTIS, HIT THE ONE YOU KNOW YOU CAN HIT BACK SAFELY EVERY SINGLE TIME!”

I stood there completely aghast as he walked back to pick up his racket. He turned and calmly fed me another ball. I was beside myself. I could not believe the nerve of this guy. I decided that I would report his abuse to the club’s board of directors. When the ball reached me I hit it so focused on not missing another one that I hit a safe little dink, just to make sure it went back to him. I did this again and again, focusing and concentrating on my footwork, bending my knees, stepping through the ball making absolutely sure I got it back to him. We reached well over a hundred hits. At that point Steve grabbed the ball out of the air. “Exactly! That is exactly what I’m after. That focused little dink you’re hitting is the one I’m looking for. You need to be aware that you possess it. That’s the shot you need to rely on. It’s the absolute minimum and essential shot that will get you out of trouble.”

I walked away intent upon reporting him to the club officials. He had clearly crossed the line. On the other hand I DID learn what he meant for me to learn. There is a place to go to, mentally, which has a different focus. I didn’t know that I possessed a shot which I can hit every time if I focused and concentrated on removing all the unnecessary variables. I would not have found it if Steve hadn’t taken it to such extremes. In my quiver of tennis strokes, this is the one on which my game is now based.

My motive in telling this story has to do with The Boss goals in the Morning Report. When you set your Boss goals, you need to use the same strategy.

The Boss is an instrument to HELP you, not demoralize you. If it is demoralizing you, the goals are not set right. Set your goal at something you KNOW you can daily attain. It’s okay for it to be low, but it MUST BE REACHED EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Remember, it’s an average. You might make up a few bad days with one good day. But it is vital that you commit to a number and maintain it.

It’s also equally important to use the diagnostics Ron Martin provides to improve your performance to higher levels, such as the Sales City Express.

Everything yields to focused concentration and attainable goals. It’s a proven system you can rely on. The charts are illuminating if you use them, but they must be used to do any good.

Ask others for tips and advice. Make Pro-active, No-Pressure Selling the focus of your time at work. Read a chapter in the book before starting each shift. Rehearse the steps with every customer.
Set reasonable and reachable goals and commit to them.

3 Responses to “Tennis Lesson from Hell”

  1. Pete Martinez Says:

    Ron this is an excellent lesson, and I believe an extension of what Vince Lombardi said many years ago:

    Practice does not make perfect. Only PERFECT PRACTICE makes perfect.
    Vince Lombardi


    Pete Martinez

  2. W. Kendy Says:

    You can’t expect people to know how to come back from someplace they’ve never been…so if management doesn’t explain what they want in terms that everyone can understand…shame on them.


  3. W. Kendy Says:


Leave a Reply