I follow a blog written by Tim Elmore entitled Growing Leaders. It is full of wisdom for parents, coaches and anyone who works with young people. I read a lot of Tim’s work because he is all about developing leadership skills for future generations. A lot of his work fits in with my coaching philosophy.
Recently he wrote a blog post where he introduces this concept of Tollbooths versus Roadblocks. I thought this was such a great metaphor for a developing tennis player and I want to share it with you. I am not going to steal Tim’s words so here is an excerpt from his original blog post.
As we move through various stages of our lives, we reach junctions—points of transition—where we must shift gears and slow down. Suddenly, we realize we have to pay a price to proceed. It’s like a tollbooth. The price might be a tough decision we must make or a situation we must leave behind; it may mean a class we must take or a job we must quit. For many, it could be a career that won’t seem to launch as we had planned. It can be anything that is costly to us. It’s at these moments that we discover that the junction will either become a tollbooth or a roadblock. We either choose to pay the price…or we can’t find it in ourselves to do what is hard. And we get stuck. – Tim Elmore
After reading this I hope you see how it fits in with a developing player. Each athlete is on their own journey with a unique destination. Some want to play high school tennis, some win a junior tournament, others secure a college scholarship, or maybe even compete professionally. Regardless of the desired destination they are all on a journey to get there and along the way there will be sacrifices to be made and tolls to be paid. If players look at these points where they have switch gears and slow down as tollbooths versus roadblocks that will stop them forever they’ll keep growing and developing. They will also learn a valuable life lesson. Some tolls or sacrifices will have a higher price than others but knowing it is something they must do to continue on their journey is a great long-term motivator. Thank you Tim for posting this on your blog it is a wonderful metaphor.