Not Everybody Likes Me???

Posted on September 14th, 2017 by

The truth is, not everybody likes me.

This is a hard truth for someone who has spent a great deal of his life wanting to be liked.

But it is, nonetheless, the truth.

And it is essential to know in going forward with any endeavor of importance without being paralyzed.

TLC Instructor Ally Baker

When my daughter, Madeline, now a first-year in college, was eight years old, I had what I thought was a difficult decision to make recording a solo CD, knowing a chunk of our audience would not like me for the content it explored (including racial, religious, sexual orientation, and gender advantages, and the intentional and unintentional biases we have around them) and the way I expressed it.  When I told her I was scared, she asked me why.  I said, “If I put this CD out, some people won’t like me.”  She looked at me patiently and said,  “Dad, even if you don’t put the CD out, some people still won’t like you.”

It was the best advice I may have ever been given.  It, in an instant, freed me up to go with my conscience.

I now make fewer and fewer decisions based on “Will they like me?” and more and more based on, “How can I best serve?”  Maybe it’s my age (58 and counting).  Maybe it’s the pain I have experienced – and inflicted on others – in my life.  Maybe it’s seeing friends of mine of different races, religions, genders, orientations, etc. constantly being bombarded with subtle suspicion and sideways glances, or aggressive and outright hateful comments and actions.  But I have decided that the best way I can serve is to stand together with those who are not being heard and, first, listen to them, second, change myself, and third, do what I can to help the world change.  And we at TLC can be a force for education and change.

TLC Instructor Dannick Boyogueno

This causes discomfort.

When Steve Wilkinson started Tennis & Life Camps in 1977, he named it “& Life” for a reason.  He wanted people to go home with an enriched approach to life that would not only positively affect their tennis game and their relationships, but would challenge them.

As long as I am director, we will continue that tradition and put our cards on the table.  We talk at TLC about how winning and playing well are out of our control, and the only things we can control are the Three Crowns: our attitude, effort, and sportsmanship.  Some people do not like this and think it is “soft” (even when we have proven it can produce champions).  One mom, talking to another tennis mom, told her she would never send her child to TLC because “they talk about all that sportsmanship, and I don’t want my child being taken advantage of by others who cheat, I want her to fight back fire with fire.”  Not everyone is going to like us.

We talk at TLC about parents being cheerleaders – never coaches or strategy advisors – of their children (unless their child begs for it, which, believe me, is the rare child).  This really bothers some parents who insist their child wants them to coach them, but who have never even asked their child how they feel about it.   And fails to recognize that coaching our children so often damages relationships, even though we swear we are doing it “for their own good”.  Not everyone is going to like us when we say this.

We talk about realizing in tight moments in matches that – even then – it is a game.  Not everyone wants to hear this when a championship is at stake.  And not everyone is going to like us.

Tennis Legend Billie Jean King

And, yes, we are now talking openly about gender bias and the other biases I mentioned above that our campers and instructors experience, and how to call it out and change the culture.  Billie Jean King, in a 2013 documentary dedicated to her on American Masters, talked about how she went from being one of the most beloved figures in sports to one of the most hated and vilified, because she refused to stay quiet on gender equity issues.  When asked why she wasn’t taking a stand for males, too, she replied, “If males were underserved, that is where I would put my energy.  But they aren’t.”  So we bring up uncomfortable conversations of how females in our society, our staff, our campers, and in tennis and in life are not treated with the same respect, dignity, or equity as males and how we can be agents of change with that.  Not everyone is going to like us when we bring it to attention.  “Why don’t you just stick to tennis?” is the question asked.  Think of where women’s tennis  – or tennis as a whole – would be if Billie Jean King just “stuck to tennis”.  And we still aren’t there yet.

Whatever we do at TLC, we desire and try to do it compassionately, whether it is teaching the serve, or teaching how to serve.  But not everyone is going to like us, because learning new things is uncomfortable.

If you can learn anything from my mistakes over my life, I would like you to learn what my then eight-year-old said:  “Even if you don’t put out the CD, some people still won’t like you.”

This is a license to be yourself, to serve others bravely.  And compassionately.  To speak up like Billie Jean King, whether it is about societal inequities or a method of teaching through positive reinforcement that some may like and some may not.

When you stop caring so much whether you are liked, you begin to serve the mission, not yourself.  And that makes all the difference.

Because then you are free.

How Can I Contribute?



  1. Jennifer Kirby says:

    This was perfectly timed. I just ran into somebody who doesn’t care for me that much twice this weekend! And my feelings are a little hurt about it. So I was happy to read that there might be some people out there that don’t like you too. (I find this hard to believe, but perhaps it’s the nature of being human.)

    Thank you for sharing and helping me!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      I shouldn’t laugh, but I am :). Because you had the good fortune to run into that person twice. Ain’t life grand? And, yes, there are definitely people out there who don’t like me. I can send names and addresses if you’d like to torment them for me ;).

  2. Marcia G. says:

    I still like you.

    Your blogs help me to examine my priorities, prejudices (yes, we all have them), and my actions. Please keep sharing your thoughts, struggles, and revelations.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Marcia! I just did a workshop yesterday and spent a good deal of the time reminding everyone none of us are alone in this, we all have our struggles, which is why we need everyone. And I still like you, too! 😉

  3. Todd Beaudoin says:

    I like you too, Neal! No one “dips” like you (sorry for the personal joke!).
    Madeline’s insightful advice (clearly, she’s a product of her Mom!) truly frees us up to serve the “mission” and not ourselves!
    Finally, I believe no one athlete, male or female, has impacted, not just tennis, but all sports, more the BJK!
    I hope to see you and the TLC family soon.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      I laughed out loud at the “dip” comment. And you are wrong. You dip with the best of them. Actually, I think we were the only two dippers in the history of the world… I agree with you on BJK. Simply amazing, and the more I learn, the more I’m amazed. Hi to your family!

  4. Faye Williams says:

    How did I miss your solo CD?

    I’m listening to it now.

    As always . . . . it’s beautiful . . . soulful . . . meaningful.

    Wow, A Cappella with Leandra.

    I think that your daughter was 4 when I was last at TLC. How can she be in college?

    Thanks for everything . . . . . . . . . . . You touch people more than you think.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Faye! Time flies, doesn’t it? Say hi to Kevin and Noah, maybe we’ll get you back up here for family or adult camp someday! I’m grateful you wrote…

  5. Wes (Mr Wonderful) Marquette says:

    Thank you, Neal, that was well written and very interesting.

    But on a less serious note, I want to go on record as saying “I like you”. That should give you a reason to pause and reexamine the need to alter your course ever so slightly. I think the nautical term is “hard aport”.

    Actually, old friend, I enjoy your insights and having them challenge me.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      I like you back, Wes! But I’m never going to say it publicly again. It will tarnish whatever reputation I still have left ;).

      And on a serious note, you are one of the shining lights of TLC every summer. Really.

  6. Mike Senescall says:

    Neal, your message inspires me to sit with some of the broken I’ve been thinking about, even though some others may not like me for it. This should be interesting! Mike

  7. Inga Anderson Foster says:

    Thank you Neal for continuing Steve’s legacy and staying true to the “& Life” of TLC. My son attended camp just 4 months after having his lower leg amputated. He did become a better tennis player but more importantly learned so many life lessons that have stayed with him to this day. Just this year for one of his high school courses he had to reflect on who he was as a person and what helped shape who he has become. I will proudly tell you that much of what he included related to what he learned in his time at TLC. I will also add that his time spent at TLC gave him a new found confidence and it makes my husband and I so proud to watch him making choices and having the confidence to do things even though he knows it may not make others “like” him. Thanks to you and your team for all you do and personally for the positive impact you had on my son. These lessons will stay with him for a lifetime:)

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      This is so beautiful. Thank you, Inga. I remember when Bryce came! What a wonderful person. Please tell him hi!

  8. Leah says:

    Well said Neal. Your message reminds me of the following saying.

    I’m not interested in whether you have stood with the great. I’m interested in whether you have sat with the broken.

    Clearly, Steve, you and even Billie Jean have sat with the broken.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Leah. I think, when I can sit with the broken, it’s because I know I’m broken, too. I love this quote, thanks for sending it.

  9. Becky Watson says:

    Another amazing message. Thanks Neal and TLC!

  10. Mark Rekow says:

    Thanks Neal! This is inspirational and the timing couldn’t be better. I serve as board chair of our local hospital and trustee chair of our church and both organizations are experiencing significant difficulty. Madeline’s words and perspective are freeing to me as well. Remembering who you serve and mustering the courage to remain loyal to that mission is all that matters.

    Thanks for the nurturing soul food!

  11. Greg Emerson says:

    You have hit the nail on the head Neal! These are the tough conversations that all parents need to have with their kids, but as an educator I know this does not always take place in the home. I am so pleased to see that you can incorporate these valuable lessons into your camps. We love being there and learn something new about tennis every time, but more importantly about the life lessons you teach us!

    Thank you Neal!!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Greg, I’m really grateful we can be here and that you are doing the same things in your community…