The word sarcasm is derived from the Greek language, meaning “to strip off the flesh.” Yikes! I definitely recommend sharing this definition with your tennis team — and your teenagers. Sarcasm is so prevalent in our culture. I worry that many athletes are losing the ability to be sincere.
A sense of humor is important in tennis — after all, it is a game and we are supposed to be having fun out there on the court. Witty wisecrackers are clever, but because the distinction between a joke and an insult can be nebulous, biting remarks can easily damage relationships. Unchecked sarcasm can actually destroy team spirit.
I suggest introducing a new and powerful habit into your team's charter. It’s called acknowledgement and it is the primary fuel that humans run on. Acknowledgement also zaps "Witty Wendy's" sarcasm at the source, by giving her the attention she craves in a more positive way.
Acknowledgement is all about letting people know you’re paying attention to them. If you want your teammates to acknowledge one other, then model it yourself by acknowledging team members on a regular basis.
Here’s a tool I learned from my time at the Positive Coaching Alliance — it’s called Appreciations and Triumphs. We opened the floor at all of our PCA staff meetings to anyone who had an appreciation or triumph to share with the group. This part of the meeting often went on for 15 minutes or more. People really enjoyed sharing warm, fuzzy, or even powerful and strong stories about each other.
Try starting your practices with Appreciations and Triumphs. This flood of positivity will fill players' emotional tanks, resulting in a team that is better equipped to tackle tough problems. It may take time to to pivot off of sarcasm and embrace Appreciations and Triumphs. Remember that, even if people aren’t visibly pleased at being recognized, they are soaking in the praise like a hot bath, so keep at it.
NOTE: Since we usually reserve our acknowledgement for big results, be sure to notice the small stuff as well.
P.S. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to read this post. (See what I did, there?!)