Rod Heckelman's career started in 1966 when he began his five-year role as a teacher at John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch in Carmel Valley, California Later he opened as the resident pro for Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch on Camelback in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1976 he took over as head pro/tennis director at the Mt. Tam Racquet Club in Larkspur, California, and added the title and responsibilities of general manager in 1982. In 2010 he was awarded “Manager of the Year” for the USPTA NorCal Division and the “Manager of the Year” at the USPTA World Conference. Rod has written several books including, “Down Your Alley” in 1993, “Playing Into the Sunset” in 2013, and most recently, “250 Ways to Play Tennis.”


He also produced the “Facility Manager’s Manual” and the “Business Handbook for Tennis Pros,” which is distributed by the TIA.

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The Dialogue of our Industry

How our method of communication can send the wrong message

By Rod Heckelman


During these very challenging times, many in the industry have worn thin enduring the ups and downs brought on by the pandemic.  This has been obviously taxing on our physical and mental condition and has resulted in a number of new issues that are very uncomfortable.  One of those issues is our method of communication.

What we say, text or write will immediately impact those we interact with and those we hope to interact with.  This is nothing new, but the art of communication has been challenged by the emotions and stress of these times, not to mention the diminished social activity.  Add that to the new technology and the desire to expedite our message, and we may need to take a new look at our methods of communication.  We have come to accept a dialogue that is permeated with short, quick responses that comfortably fit in with the modern-day means of interaction.  The question now is, have we gone too far and have we lost the ability to fully and clearly articulate our messages. Take a moment and see how many of the following short comments are in your daily dialogue these days, especially if you use them as an instructor or coach.  Question whether you have compromised your ability to get across your message by trying to be more efficient or expedient in sending a message.

I Know That,” is too often the response to someone who has offered information.  Ask yourself, even if you do know what they are trying to pass on or express, are you engendering a long- term relationship that will continue to grow.  If every time you already know what they are trying to say, will they bother providing you with information down the road?

Like I Said,” a statement that both shows that you don’t feel they understand your comments or worst yet, are not able to comprehend your comments.  It also may be sending a message that you are unsure that you got your message across.  Repeating yourself is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen, especially when instructing or helping others. 

To Be Honest,” which is basically saying that normally you are not. This is a phrase that is used quite frequently in hopes of reinforcing or backing a statement.  If that is your thinking, maybe you failed to properly qualify your message or back it up with enough information.  As a consequence, you feel a need to add this measure of support. 

They Often Say,” who are they? Again, this comes up in an effort to qualify a statement.  By providing the famous unknown group as “they,” you feel that you have offered the necessary backing to support your comments.  Once again, if your message was incomplete or lacked enough information and facts, adding the nebulous “they” will probably not help your cause or better sell your point of view.


My Point Is,” another added piece to drive home your point of view that might have been achieved through a better or more complete dialogue.  If you’re trying to make points, you may also inadvertently been putting that person you are talking with in a position as being an adversary.  Think about it, the very comment roots from competitive interaction...scoring points.

You Need To (fill in the blank),” which could easily be replaced with “you want to,” often a better way to send a message. Telling someone the need to do something can be appropriate in many situations, but this phase is often used in conjunction with a command.  So, the question here needs to be asked, are you trying to send your message by demanding, or are you rather trying to suggest that something take place.  This perspective should always be reviewed.

It’s No Big Deal” or maybe it is?  Avoid any statements that immediately dismiss others from having input.  Listening is not the antitheses of talking, but rather the bridge that connects your ideas and feelings with the person you are interacting with.  We all need to learn to listen with the intent of understanding and appreciating the message as best we can.

Yes, But,” is often said as a retort or a convenient way of politely disagreeing with someone.  It is also a way of setting up a contingency to what is being discussed rather than first completely reviewing and seriously considering someone’s input before your response.

Whatever,” may be the best case of using a single word that completely dismisses someone’s point of view or input.  This single word can literally kill any early conversation that has taken place.  

These are just a few examples.  Many more exist that I’m sure everyone can think of and use.  So I could close this article by stating that a picture can say a thousand words, but a poetic use of a thousand words can resonant for many years…or I could say, Yes but, it may be no big deal, but like I said, to be honest, they often say that you need to learn how to communicate better or whatever, I know this because it’s my point of view.  So, which ending do you prefer?