Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Things I learned from my Tennis Pro about being a better Bridge Teacher – Part 1

I have decided (somewhat surprisingly to everyone who knows me) to learn to play tennis. I have never played any racquet sport at all and am not know for my athletic ability. I am a pretty fast long distance walker and I can swim a stroke or two but that is about it.

But in the wonderful place that I live in during the winter in sunny Sarasota Florida the conditions are perfect to learn tennis. We are members of the association tennis club and we have access to the many excellent courts all day. We also have an amazing tennis pro, named Joe. Joe’s lessons are in great demand and it is obvious why. He is a natural teacher.

After I had taken a few lessons with Joe I started to realize that he was illustrating to me some valuable ideas that I could use to be a better bridge teacher. Some of them I already knew like patience and calm and good humor. I couldn’t do them as well as Joe, especially the humor part but I could try to do them better. But over time I saw that there were quite a few things I could learn from him.

The first one that occurred to me was the use of praise. Now you might think that “everybody’s know that.” I remember Ray went to a seminar where the speaker was suggestion that you train employees to do their job (or do it better) by praising them when they did well and never criticising or correcting. Ray suggested that this might not be the best  way to train an airline pilot on his first actual flight or two.

As I worked with Joe I realized that praise does have to be combined with correction. But correction isn’t the same as criticism. You can acknowledge incremental improvement, ignore errors or failures but provide correction for some aspect of the game you wish to improve. (More about that in the next blog.) Of course, as Ray pointed out about training a pilot, you can’t allow drastic errors that could threaten life or limb to continue.

So I started to look for the right time to provide praise. While I think that any praise may be encouraging I feel that praise around an improvement, doing something that you are trying to teach especially, reinforces the point and if you do this repeatedly the student is more likely to improve in just that way.

Not only that but praise and encouragement makes you want to do better and make you that you can do better.

I will likely never be much of a tennis player. My current goal is to be competent enough to happily play in the beginner game. Joe never says no, or that’s wrong or why did you …  And when Joe says “Excellent!” I know that I have done something right.  And I have to say I really look forward to the lessons.

And even though I have always thought I DID use praise, I now know what it is like to be a beginner, and I remember to make sure to say “Excellent” just like Joe.

Maybe the approaches I am going to discuss in the blog would also work with partners, I am sure praise would.

1 Comment

peterlJanuary 21st, 2013 at 6:03 pm

A management rule (from Fran Tarkenton, of all people) is to maintain a 4-1 ratio of positive comments to corrections. The more corrections you want to make, the more positive comments you need to make. If you don’t have enough positive comments for the corrections you want to make, focus on the most important corrections only.

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