what trainers can learn from King Richard
Employee Development
Learning & Development
September 26, 2022

What training managers can learn from King Richard

You don’t even have to be into tennis to know the names Venus and Serena Williams, because these two sisters have made sporting history.

For a long time, the pair seemed pretty much unbeatable, with 1,600 singles wins, 122 singles titles, and 30 Grand Slam singles wins between them.

Venus was the first African American woman to be ranked number one in the world. And Serena is considered by many as the greatest female tennis player in the history of the sport.

And who else was there with them on the journey? Their father and (for many years) trainer, Richard Williams.

Richard and his training methods have been getting a lot of publicity lately thanks to King Richard, the 2021 movie about the Williams sisters and their dad. As well as being a great film (seriously, give it a watch!), the biopic provides lots of great insight for anyone in the training trade.

Here’s what training managers can learn from Richard Williams and the King Richard film.


  • What can training managers learn from King Richard?

    • Make a detailed plan

    • You don’t have to take the same road as everyone else

    • Leadership can be all-consuming

    • Be forever learning

What can training managers learn from King Richard?     

Make a detailed plan

Richard Williams had a motto written on a sign that he hung around the tennis court where Venus and Serena trained. What did that sign say?

When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Preparation was a big part of the training process for Richard. In fact, he started planning before his daughters were even born.

Inspired by seeing Romanian tennis player Virginia Ruzici win a tournament (and significant prize money) in 1980, he simply decided that his children would be the two best tennis players in the world.

He then wrote a 78-page plan detailing how he and they could make that dream happen.

What’s the takeaway for training managers?

As Richard Williams proves, you cannot underestimate the power of planning.

A plan helps you to visualise an objective. It also grounds your goal in reality by describing the what, why and how: the concrete steps you need to take to achieve success.

For training managers, a plan has to address the resources you have available to you (the tools, platforms and content) and the environment (or company culture) in which you’re trying to fulfil your objectives.

You don’t have to take the same road as everyone else

Richard Williams wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo.

He fought against ingrained prejudice to prove his children were good enough to play amongst the wealthy, predominantly white, tennis elite.

And when the tennis coach, Rick Macci, told him to enlist his daughters in junior tournaments, Richard refused. He wanted them to focus on their education as well as their tennis.

This was unheard of. But the strategy obviously proved successful.

What’s the takeaway for training managers?

Training managers should try to take their own path.

You know your industry, your organisation and your employees better than anyone else. So don’t be swayed too much by L&D industry trends.

Instead, find strategies and solutions tailored to your organisational wants and needs.

Leadership can be all-consuming

In the film, Richard Williams is single-minded in his ambition. He has such laser focus that he sometimes loses sight of other important things (like being present with his wife and his family, which had an impact on Richard Williams’ relationship with Serena and Venus too!).

Basically, he finds it hard to switch off from the leadership role.

In one example, the family sits down to watch a movie (Cinderella) only for Richard to quiz his kids afterwards about what they learned — zapping all the joy out of the experience.

What’s the takeaway for training managers?

Here’s one instance where we shouldn’t follow in the Williams Sisters’ coach’s footsteps. Leadership can be all-consuming but it’s important that training managers strive to keep things in perspective.

You can’t be so focused on one aspect of L&D that you ignore the bigger picture. Nor can you be so driven to achieve objectives that you stop making the learning process fun and engaging.

Make time to step back and look at things holistically to avoid tunnel vision.

Be forever learning

Richard Williams didn’t have a tennis background. He learned the sport from scratch in order to one day step up and train Venus and Serena.

Both he and his wife were responsible for training the girls until they got a professional coach at the ages of 10 and 11.

Even when Rick Macci took over as Venus and Serena Williams’ coach, Richard continued to study magazines, TV and tennis matches. He was continuously committed to learning and gathering insights that could help his daughters to improve their game.

What’s the takeaway for training managers?

Like Richard, training managers should commit to continuous learning — both for their employees and for themselves.

Developing your skills as an educator will help you to deliver the best possible training programmes for your entire organisation.

Want to up your training game? Check out the range of learning solutions available at My Learning Hub. 

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