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Game, set and match

Daniel Betts from Eteach says tennis and teaching have more in common than you might think

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 10, 2016 | Teaching

Strawberries, cream and tennis…lots of tennis. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll have experienced the media buzz surrounding the oldest continuously running tennis tournament, Wimbledon. The Championships, led and conducted by the AELTC, are widely considered among the most prestigious in the game and to take home the trophy, it takes something truly special. 

There are certain psychological characteristics that make up a well-rounded professional athlete and they aren’t as far removed from those required for teaching as you may think.  


To be successful in tennis, or any other sport for that matter, you won’t get very far without commitment. Tennis is a particularly difficult game to master and, whilst the professionals make it look easy, without dedication to training both mentally and physically, it’s near impossible to succeed.

A mark of a real champion is an ability to face adversity and come out of the other side stronger and well-rounded. Billie Jean King, winner of 39 Grand Slam titles famously put it simply: “Champions keep playing until they get it right.”  

Teaching, like tennis, isn’t an easy profession to master. In an industry known for its high workloads and challenging work life balance, teaching can be a difficult occupation to crack. That said, the opportunity to really make a difference is huge. Shaping the imagination, talents and skills of students will have an incredible impact on their lives and as a teacher, you can influence it.

True teaching champions need to keep playing, safe in the knowledge that they’re doing the same thing that the tennis champions of today are — inspiring the youth of today with their work. 

The Wimbledon final takes place today


If you love what you do, staying committed is easy. A true champion exudes passion for their sport, along with the trials and tribulations of training and development. This intrinsic motivation drives competitive athletes to engage fully in all aspects of their training. Being a champion is about more than successes, it’s the ability to deal with failures that shapes them too. Novak Djokovic summed it up nicely when he said: “Tennis has brought so much joy and passion in my life…Every single day I cherish and I enjoy hitting this yellow fuzzy ball.”  

Teachers change people’s lives. From shaping behaviours and setting examples for their students, an inspirational teacher is passionate about their subject and, like Djokovic, cherishes what they do. A great teacher will hone their craft, imparting that same intrinsic motivation to their students that drives their own success in the subject.


The ability to push on through losses is what shapes a real tennis champion. Andy Murray personifies career resilience having finally taken home the Wimbledon trophy in his eighth competition. Learning from failures, brushing himself off and trying again is what fuelled Murray’s journey to becoming the first British Wimbledon champion in 77 years.  

Murray, like Nadal, Federer and many other great tennis champions, hates to lose but accepts that it is inevitable: “In tennis, it is not the opponent you fear, it is the failure itself, knowing how near you were but just out of reach.” It’s the ability to bounce back and try again that makes him successful.

As a teacher, resilience is an incredibly important characteristic to maintain. Inspirational teachers encourage their students, even those who would choose not to be in class if given the opportunity, to learn on a cognitive, social and emotional level. Many teachers enter the profession with a fantastic sense of drive and purpose within their vocation, but find that this motivation diminishes over time as a result of changing working conditions and expectations.  

A champion teacher, like a champion athlete, accepts that there are difficult times among those fantastic times and doesn’t give up when the going gets tough. They must display persistence, perseverance and commitment to their cause — the education of their students.

Though teaching doesn’t get the same public adoration and glory as the Wimbledon winners, there is absolutely no doubt that a great teacher makes an equally significant impact on the world around them. These are the unsung heroes, the champions of education and shapers of our students and here at Eteach, we’re proud to be supporting their careers.

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