The Discovery Dialogue

As much as I wish I had more opportunities to play tennis, I have to admit that it’s that uncommon to run into other people who happen to play tennis. What’s more uncommon though is to have a decent dialogue to figure out if you might be a good fit on the court. It normally goes something like this:

– So, you play tennis?
– Yeah, and you?
– I do too.
– Cool. So, you’re pretty good?
– Um, yeah, depends who I play, I guess… And you?
– Oh, I haven’t played since I moved here last year, but I’d like to hit some day.
– Yeah that’d be nice…

Hmmm…How much does that tell me? I can’t tell how good (or bad) he is. Unless I ask “What level do you play” and they say – “Oh, I’m a 4.5”, there’s almost no telling. And, of course, not everyone knows the rating system.

So, I’ve started using other discovery questions, like “What racket do you play?”. If they say – “I use a Head Liquid Metal” or “I love my Wilson K Factor”, then at least I know they care about the weight of the racket, balance, playing style, maybe strings and tension, etc. They’d be at least 3.5. If they say “It’s red”, or “Nike” (yeah, I heard that once, too) then I know their racket is probably 50 bucks from Big 5 and they haven’t used it since high school.

What do other people ask during the discovery dialogue? “Did you play in college?”, “Did you play on a team”, “Do you play in USTA leagues”? Or do people just wait for the other person to share a highlight in their experience “I won the local ladder in my neighborhood”, “I play at least twice a week”.

How do you know how good the other person is? What would you ask them?

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