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What's WRONG with YOU?!

How many times have you, as a parent or coach, asked your child or student this question? Instead of focusing on the player, it may be becoming for the inquirer to look at himself first. When it comes to relationships, we've often heard the importance of chemistry. Chemistry is the ingredient that attracts two people to each other. Although chemistry can take many forms, from a tennis point of view, it's the ability to complement and supplement each other's qualities and characteristics that is significant. And here is where an understanding of various personalities comes into play. But rather that starting with the student, it may be important for the teacher to look at him/herself first in order to figure out his/her strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, motivations as well as emotional and logical characteristics. We all see ourselves as certain people, with specific characteristics. However, the way we perceive ourselves is not always the same as we come across to other people. Often times, on-court clashes can be avoided by understanding the personality conflicts of the various parties. 

In this regard, I recommend that both pros and players (and perhaps parents as well) take a basic Jung-Myers Briggs personality test and summarize each other's specifications. I recommend the test and analysis on www.humanmetrics.com although many other online tests may be of similar quality. After taking the test, the coach will have a better understanding of who s/he is as a person and how the coach comes across to his/her students. Thereafter, it is important for the coach to understand the game of tennis from the player's point of view by looking at the player's personality profile. For example, is the player more rational than emotional? Is the player the type who can stay focused for long periods of time on specific tasks? Is the player a natural leader? Is the player rigid v. flexible? Does the player like to be the center of attention? Does the player have the tendency to get bogged down by stress? Is the player sensitive to other people's feelings? Is the player energetic? Does the player have an adventurous spirit (i.e., action oriented)? Does the player live in the world of ideas and strategic planning? Is the player interested more in the theoretical concepts of endeavors v. the practical application? 

In other words, in order to teach a player you must understand the player. And in order to achieve this objective the coach must first understand himself and his own personality portrait. Too many coaches (and parents) think that there's one way to teach a student - "come h$#@ or high water"; "my way or the highway" - and cannot understand why the player doesn't see things their way. As any good educator will tell you, not every student thinks the same or can be taught the same (but, then again, the vast majority of pros - certified or certifiable - have no background in education). For example, some players view the game of tennis as a battle of wits...a strategic affair; others see it more as a personal, gladiatorial contest; others still see it as a scientific experiment. And then there are those who see the tennis court as a canvas and the game as art. They are all right since tennis is all these things (and more). In addition, it is important to note that some players (like students) thrive in a group setting; others, may become disoriented with too many people around and lose focus. Furthermore, some players may be interested in the theoretical aspects of the game; other players are more interested in the practical approach (perhaps, these latter players are the "competitive" types). Lastly, there are those who need to be on center court in order to perform their best (i.e., be the center of attention) while there are others who like to grind their practices on the back-courts...away from public scrutiny. 

As a good coach, it's important to either (a) modify (if only slightly) your method to fit the student; or (b) if unable to do so, advise the player to seek assistance somewhere else. Anything less is a great disservice to either the player or the parents and will result in frustration and dissatisfaction on all sides. Of course, some coaches and players will have a natural fit due to their personality match. That's great when it happens. But if that aspect isn't present, don't be too quick to blame the player. Understand her and yourself and work together towards a workable solution or guide her towards someone who may be a better fit. 

NOTE: FOR ADDITIONAL REFERENCE, SEE ALSO http://parentingaces.com/2011/12/02/energize-your-childs-tennis-game/

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Reader Comments (5)

you have nailed it! personality is a HUGE part of coaching - if coach and player don't mesh, the relationship is doomed from the start. we parents have to understand this dynamic, too, or else we can end up throwing good money after bad, sticking with a coach who will NEVER be able to achieve success with our child due to personality conflicts.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa S

This is me from Myer Briggs, deadly accurate!

INFJs are one of sixteen personality types, only percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.. Unlike INTJs, in which males predominate, there is greater gender parity among INFJs, with nearly equal numbers of males and females.

It is difficult to broadly classify INFJs as either right-brained or left-brained since they utilize both sides of the brain with equal adeptness. INFJs are both creative and responsible, artistic and logical, spiritual and scientific, intuitive and analytic.

INFJs grow up feeling “different” from their peers. The more pronounced their Introversion and Intuition, the more estranged they are likely to feel. Young INFJs also feel misunderstood by their elders, who can be quick to ignore or dismiss their precocious insights and observations. If given unsympathetic circumstances, INFJs may come to feel isolated or rejected rather early in life.

INFJs are “old souls.” They grow up feeling far wiser than would be predicted by their chronological age. Some may experience themselves as wiser than their teachers or parents. They may take on the role of counseling and advising their friends and siblings, or even their adult family members, from an extraordinarily young age.

INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally "doers" as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn.

INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people -- a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious "soul mates." While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent "givers." As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood -- particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.

Due in part to the unique perspective produced by this alternation between detachment and involvement in the lives of the people around them, INFJs may well have the clearest insights of all the types into the motivations of others, for good and for evil. The most important contributing factor to this uncanny gift, however, are the empathic abilities often found in Fs, which seem to be especially heightened in the INFJ type (possibly by the dominance of the introverted N function).

This empathy can serve as a classic example of the two-edged nature of certain INFJ talents, as it can be strong enough to cause discomfort or pain in negative or stressful situations. More explicit inner conflicts are also not uncommon in INFJs; it is possible to speculate that the causes for some of these may lie in the specific combinations of preferences which define this complex type. For instance, there can sometimes be a "tug-of-war" between NF vision and idealism and the J practicality that urges compromise for the sake of achieving the highest priority goals. And the I and J combination, while perhaps enhancing self-awareness, may make it difficult for INFJs to articulate their deepest and most convoluted feelings.

Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. Since in addition they often possess a strong personal charisma, INFJs are generally well-suited to the "inspirational" professions such as teaching (especially in higher education) and religious leadership. Psychology and counseling are other obvious choices, but overall, INFJs can be exceptionally difficult to pigeonhole by their career paths. Perhaps the best example of this occurs in the technical fields. Many INFJs perceive themselves at a disadvantage when dealing with the mystique and formality of "hard logic", and in academic terms this may cause a tendency to gravitate towards the liberal arts rather than the sciences. However, the significant minority of INFJs who do pursue studies and careers in the latter areas tend to be as successful as their T counterparts, as it is *iNtuition* -- the dominant function for the INFJ type -- which governs the ability to understand abstract theory and implement it creatively.

In their own way, INFJs are just as much "systems builders" as are INTJs; the difference lies in that most INFJ "systems" are founded on human beings and human values, rather than information and technology. Their systems may for these reasons be conceptually "blurrier" than analogous NT ones, harder to measure in strict numerical terms, and easier to take for granted -- yet it is these same underlying reasons which make the resulting contributions to society so vital and profound.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWest Nott

The question is, how would I coach you - me being and INTJ (strategy being of paramount concern - from training, to practice, diet and match) and you being an INFJ? Well, I think that for one, INFJ would make perfect students. I would definitely try to throw some anecdotes from history to get your wheels turning. I would try to sprinkle practices with some "artistic" drills and then see how you'd use it in a line-ball scenario. I would also have you express your thoughts regarding development on paper. I would also want you to create one drill a day for "yourself". This would be a scenario where you do something that I think you should do and then you do something that you WANT/FELL that you should do.....and lots of sprints "cause I said so"

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIni

"cause i said so" - lol! i love your idea of having the player create a drill for him/herself - gives the player some ownership over his/her own development. brilliant!

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa S

after a certain age, it is imperative that the player takes ownership of the practice. If they can't, it means that they're not paying attention to what's going on in their matches. Sometimes I work with a player and I ask them what they need to work on and they say "well so-and-so said I need to work on this or that." I tell them "NO! what do YOU think we need to work on?" After a while, if they can't figure out what's going on in their lives...they run.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIni

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