BEYOND THE SCORE: Take Time To Say Thank You


by Lisa Thomas

This week I was lucky enough to be invited to a very nice event that honored the efforts of some extraordinary people in our Southern California tennis community.  Each recipient was asked to say something upon receiving their award and the efforts of gratitude ranged from long and heartfelt to off-the-cuff and concise.  It got me thinking:  What makes a good and appropriate thank you speech?

Some of us in the sports community have a chance now again to say a public thank you and we often see the juniors in our charge and the professionals we follow show their respect and gratitude as they take top honors at a tournament or are recognized for their achievements at schools and clubs.  So when it is our turn to step in front of cameras and an audience how should we approach that rarified opportunity to say a public thank you?

Three things stood out for me at this recent event:

  1. Adhering to the idea that less is more.
  2. Showing respect to competitors and acknowledging the help from others.
  3. Stories, stories and stories.

I’ll expand a bit more on them here:

Less is more: This is easier said than done because we are often excited about our win or opportunity, and we so often very passionate about what we do. In an environment where we are inundated with information, sometimes the principle of less is more is even more important.  It’s a chellenge for an audience to pay attention to speeches that are particularly long and detailed. When that happens, the message is often diluted or lost altogether.  As the speaker, making sure that the message is clearly delivered in a concise way will ensure your audience stays engaged and remembers the key points of your thank you speech. “Less is more” does not mean you need to take out everything – just keep in the good stuff and remove the fluff!

Showing Respect: I am still in awe of a young man at the event who spoke after receiving a well deserved sportsmanship award.  The first words out of his mouth were recognition of the great pool of accomplished players and friends who he deemed just as worthy of this award.  He spoke reverently of the occasion and made it very clear that he appreciated the opportunities his coaches, mentors and parents had afforded him.  He spoke of what tennis has done for him and how grateful he was for the great game.  He was genuine, and didn’t over do it. He presented himself well and was clearly a natural speaker.

Stories: Stories are engaging, easy to follow and memorable.  Stories work because people can relate to them and we just like listening to them.  Stories provide an easy to bridge to your message.  It will be hard for me to forget the story shared by a worthy service award recipient who relayed his first encounters with tennis as a nine year old refugee to the US after a Salvation Army volunteer gave him a used racquet for Christmas.  The start of something great.  I will remember that story of two young Mexican brothers making history through tennis, in so doing giving their family a chance to prosper in America.  I will keep in mind the drive of the young girl whose determination has allowed her to be a university varsity tennis player and scholar all the while being confined to a wheelchair.  Stories pull us in and inspire us – a very good recipe for a thank you speech.

Any thank you is a good thank you.  To honor the occasion and to really recognize the efforts of those involved, keeping a couple of easy strategies in mind means your speech will reflect the very achievements you are being recognized for.  Keep it simple: remember, less is more.  Thank your competition and the people who made the difference for you.  And perhaps most important tell a story, pull people in and give them something to remember you by.

And by the way, if you are in the position to say thank you, well done and keep it up!

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