As a tennis player on 3 teams including 2 USTA teams I have spent the weekend watching the U.S. Open. The singles players and doubles players exhibit such perseverance match after match. It’s clear that the amount of training they undergo and the time they put into perfecting their skills is tremendous. They practice and train daily to obtain the physical endurance they need to succeed while also perfecting their skills to out play their opponent. They force themselves to get up and train early in the morning and late into the night and work with coaches to optimize their game plan based on who they are playing.
In AIDS Service Organizations how much training, practice and coaching do we undergo to perfect our game? The environment has always been competitive when it comes to funding and in some markets even when it comes to clients. Are we and our staff trained on how to deal with difficult situations daily and prepare for the changing healthcare landscape? Have we practiced for the future on how we want to operate? Did we receive the coaching necessary to succeed? When I worked in the for-profit world one senior executive would say ‘To get promoted to the next level you need to already be performing at that level.’ Are we operating at the next level to ensure we get funding at that level and are ready to expand and grow?
AIDS Service Organizations have to begin to think like athletes and play tennis. We have to learn how to endure the full 3 sets and a tie break if necessary but in order to do this we need the endurance of athletes. We need to have fiscal and programmatic systems in place that can withstand long sets including staff who are willing to go the full match even if there is a tie break. We have to find staff who are passionate about the work as we don’t always have the sponsors to pay us regardless of whether we win or not. We have to ensure we are trained to outplay the competitor strategically by watching and learning from what they are doing well but also identifying the needs of our clients. And finally we have to have the determination to know we can help our clients/constituents to meet their goals and get to the next level regardless of the challenges and difficulties.
Tennis requires a strong focus and determination that if present in managing an AIDS Service Organization could help us be prepared for our next match and next competitor. There is a lot we can learn from tennis on how to just get the ball back over the net and be ready for the next point. We always need to be in the ready position and always expect the ball to come back over. The point isn’t over until it’s over.