The Street Smart Law Blog

Writing 2
  • Frederick L Shelton

A 1 Minute Key to Rainmaking Success From a Tennis Coach

During my daughter’s Junior year in High School, her tennis coach quit. No one was disappointed. I had been training my daughter and the girls all noticed how in one year, she’d gone from being weak, to formidable.

They asked her secret and she shared that I had been training her. They wanted to get better so while she was away for the summer, Erica asked if I would train other members of the team. Twelve of the fifteen team members started coming to Coach Fred’s practices. None of the girls I worked with had had lessons before and they would be going up against very affluent schools where years of private lessons where the norm.

I contacted the coaches of three colleges that had won NCAA Tennis championships and explained that I, an inexperienced amateur who had never even played tennis in high school, now found myself in a somewhat untenable situation.

Two of them sent my diagrams and descriptions of their best drills and doubles strategies for weaker players. Now the key would be getting the girls to believe they could win, and to put in the effort necessary to do so.

Here is one thing I told them over and over again, and it applies to success in business as much as on the court:

"Does the player who gives every ounce of effort they've got during the tennis match, win?


It's the player who gave every ounce of effort they had, at every practice leading up to the match, who wins."

Every girl who came to our lessons, became a starter on the team.

Previously, the girl’s tennis was never mentioned in the school newspaper or announcements because they hadn't had a winning season in over a decade.

That year, they beat girls who had years of lessons but who, on the doubles court, played like two singles. They beat girls who had better technique, who were skinnier and faster but who weren't willing to be driven through drills for hours in the Las Vegas desert heat. When it was 108 outside, I would have them nonchalantly say "It's really a nice day for a match, isn't it!", as they walked by their opponents during changeovers. The opponents who were melting in the desert sun. The psychological effect was palpable. They went 10 - 0 and made every announcement and issue of the newspaper. They did the same thing the next year when my daughter was named team captain. I couldn’t have been more proud of all of them. At the end, they made a collage and signed it for me (pictured). It's one of those things you would grab if the house caught fire.

At work it's the same thing. We all know attorneys with natural charisma and talent.

But it's not the person who does their best in the pitch process who always gets the client. It's the professional who makes a habit out of researching and studying two hours, for what could be a ten-minute phone call.

The professional who spends hours every week, studying their craft, trends and innovation, who becomes an authority. The lawyer who studies and implements business development (sales!) techniques, is the one who learns how to gain and maintain valuable relationships. These are the attorneys who have business come to them, often seemingly out of nowhere.

The professional who puts in serious time, effort and energy “off the court” is the one who wins the Rainmaking Match in the long run.

Frederick Shelton

CEO, Shelton & Steele

Legal Recruiting and Consulting