Last year I was employed by a tennis club in Stuttgart to go and play in the Inter-club season. There are a number of different divisions depending on the size of the club and the level, and there is a significant amount of prize money given to the top players and the most successful clubs.
I arrived in Stuttgart in June and was greeted by the team manager who picked me up and drove me back to the club. There I met the rest of the team before going on to court to have a quick hit. It was fantastic to arrive and play some great tennis in the sun. Unfortunately, however, I was the only Englishman on a team primarily made up of Germans and Eastern Europeans. This made communication relatively difficult and did not facilitate my settling in to my new surroundings.
When you are on a tennis court, communication is generally not a problem, however when you are all enjoying supper together then it is very hard to relax when you cannot understand what the rest of the team are discussing! Equally, I could not help but wonder whether they were discussing me! I was the new recruit – the number 1 seed hired from England and so they had large expectations as to my level. They had seen me play once and had no doubt been judging each and every ball that I hit.
I had confidence in my game but it was still quite difficult knowing that they were probably discussing my latest showing of forehands, backhand and serves!
I stayed with the family of the Head Coach of the team. The car journeys to and from the tennis were very difficult because he wanted to inform me about tactics, technique and team ethic and I wanted to reciprocate this feedback. However the language barrier impeded our relationship development. The only saving grace was that the Coach’s wife spoke fluent English which facilitated the situation somewhat!
I had a really fantastic time over there in Germany. I played some great tennis in the sun, met some lovely people and developed personally to a great extent. It is fair to say that even though this language barrier impeded my communication with the team and made me feel a bit of an outsider it did bring me out of my comfort zone and forced me to learn a little bit of German! In a professional situation where high performance is required it is important to be settled and relaxed and unfortunately this language barrier did hinder this to a great extent. If I were to go through it again I would employ some sort of London Translation Agency to assist me!
By Will Ralston