Generational Differences and Training Opportunities

I am taking tennis lessons from a Master Professional Coach who is known for developing future tennis talent. My goal for taking lessons from him was to learn tennis from the “best”, which is how he was recommended to me. Eight months into taking lessons he suggested I play a match against one of his junior players. I agreed and a match was scheduled. The day before the match I inquired as to the age of this junior player and was informed that she was 10 years old. I spent the next 24 hours reflecting on what might have motivated him to suggest the match, knowing there was such a significant age difference. The following day after playing the match, or should I say partial match since we did not play a full second set before the hour was up, I found myself once again questioning the purpose of our playing together. Though I can proudly say I stayed in the match for an hour the final score was 1-6 1-4; I could not shake the disturbing thought that my competition was truly bored by the experience.  I then began wondering once again the purpose of our playing together. Was my coach just providing an opportunity for both of us to get playing time? Was he thinking we could learn from each other? Was he expecting we would push each other? These were the questions rolling around in my mind.

Fast forward to today’s lesson where my tennis coach was having me practice volleys at the net.  As we practiced and he observed what I was doing incorrectly, he decided to call over the same 10 year old junior player, who was playing on the next court, to show me how to do it correctly. This occurred two different times during my lesson. I observed how easily she demonstrated the volley without hesitation.

Driving away from my lesson I began to think about how challenging it can be in organizations today when a “younger” employee is asked to show an “older” employee how to perform a task such as the use of the new technology; or a younger employee gets promoted over an older employee with more years of experience; or a younger employee who is now in charge of a long term employee. How open are both individuals to learning from each other? What might come easily to one employee (i.e. the use of technology) might not be easily learned by the older employee? Is there a willingness to teach and a willingness to learn from one another without judgment? Can we accept the generational differences and appreciate what each can contribute to each other and to the organization?