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I must admit that I have always been unsporty. As a child I could swim and dive quite well, but not everything else. I have painful memories of sports lessons when teams were chosen and I was one of the last ones standing. I hope and believe that this undignified procedure has been abolished by now. Later I turned to horseback riding; that was great, but again I didn't have any great sporting success. Same with tennis: likes to play, but not well, I would sum up my performance.

All that changed about a year ago, when a tennis club in Hamburg was converted into a padel tennis facility. After just a few tries, it was clear to me: this is it. The sport was invented in Mexico in the 60s and is widespread in Spain and some other countries. In Germany, the sport was practically unknown until recently, but for some time now, new facilities have been opening up all over the country. What kind of sport is it and what is so great about it? You play on a court that is only about 1/3 the size of a tennis court and is surrounded by glass walls. Similar to squash, the ball can bounce off the walls and continue to be played. This leads to long rallies even for technically inexperienced players. And above all: you play in fours, so that the dynamics of the teams always play a role and you sometimes win against stronger opponents if you harmonize well in your team.

Why am I reporting on this here and what does it have to do with digitization? Well, in my second (adopted) home Barcelona there are more than 50 clubs and when I'm there I play every day. How is that possible? Through an app where these clubs and thousands of players are registered. You simply choose from countless matches that are bookable every day, according to time, club and, above all, the level of the other players. This level is adjusted according to an algorithm with each victory and defeat based on numerous factors. It's fantastic: when you have teams of roughly the same level, the greatest matches come about.

For me, it's an example of how digitization can be a GameChanger: 20 years ago, it would have been virtually impossible for a stranger in a Spanish city to play such a sport. You would have had to become a member of a club and find players at the same level. Hardly possible if you're only there once in a while. In 2023 it looks different: This year I have already played almost 100 games and made many acquaintances with people from all over the world. You often network after a match, stay in touch, and play together again when it happens.

So I had to get into my mid-forties to find a sport that helped me overcome the "trauma of being unsporty." And digitization has helped a lot.

About the author

Dr. Sebastian Tschentscher finds the best digital minds for your company with his executive search boutique "Digital Minds".

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