In this fast paced world of athletic achievement and endless pursuits
it is often overlooked that tennis is just a sport. As a sport,
tennis should neither threaten self-esteem nor invoke hostility.
Tennis should be fun, challenging and fulfilling! Unfortunately many
players lose sight of this simple truth and turn a potentially
rewarding activity into a game of Russian Roulette, awaiting
destruction from self-imposed pressure and fear.
Sport has often been called a metaphor for life, simulating the ups
and downs, positives and negatives, courage and fear. By competing
regularly, we expose our weaknesses and stretch our physical and
mental capacities to the limit. This is greatly satisfying, in my
opinion, for challenges make us stronger and force us to adapt better
in the future. What is really neat is that the benefits of playing
tennis can also spill over into real life.
The outcome in tennis is determined only by what happens during the
match. As such, it is pointless to obsess over the final score.
Although the match result gauges progress, it is vastly overrated.
Since society values success, the first question often heard
following a match is, "Did you win or lose?" What a dull and abrupt
inquiry! What about the fun, the challenge, the growth, the
Don't misread me. Some weirdos might like to eliminate the score and
change the rules so that the player who grows most as a person
receives the trophy. This might be acceptable to Stewart Smiley, but
would eliminate my interest in tennis immediately! Competition is
natural and healthy and we should strive vigorously to win. However,
the important word is "strive." Once the match is won there are
hundreds more to play and our thirst is never really quenched.
Although winning is the obvious goal, it is really just a label for
all the activity preceding it, and focusing on "winning" actually
impairs performance (See May, 1996 Article).
The message this month will lead to personal growth on and off the
court, because you'll be rid of the fear of failure and only focused
on being the best you can be.
Here are some areas where regular competitive tennis can lead to
- Problem Solving Enhancement - Problems on the court begin to be
viewed as exciting puzzles rather than threatening sources of future
- Renewal of Energies - A good heated battle distracts you from
the real problems in life, renews your batteries, and increases your
level of fitness.
- Self-Confidence Building - Handling adversity on the court may
help boost confidence in dealing with real life problems.
- Self-Esteem Enhancement - When self-esteem is measured by
factors under your control (e.g., trying hard, defeating the inner
fears) rather than outcome (e.g., winning or losing) you are no
longer at risk for self-depreciation following a loss.
Here are some tips which will also enhance personal growth:
Few individuals thrive on negativity or pressure. The key is to
remove pressure with healthy positive thoughts. Keep in mind that
tennis is just a sport and that sports should be fun, rewarding,
challenging and growth enhancing. With these principles intact
you'll be ready to hunt even the largest tigers with renewed
enthusiasm, and further down the road toward personal fulfillment.
Have fun and I'll see you next month...
- Don't get too serious - Give your absolute best in battle, but
reinterpret a loss as simply an excellent lesson for the next match.
- Have fun - Enjoyment helps you learn faster and perform better.
- Never give up - Even when down 6-0, 5-0, the match is not yet
finished. Staying positive in these situations reinforces the values
of consistency and perseverance, and builds confidence.
- Believe in yourself - On and off the court, self-belief improves
performance and builds character.