What Tennis Really Is
The whole point of tennis is to hit the ball over the net into the court. That's it.
The challenges in tennis are the demands of the game and the challenges posed by your opponent.
Here are examples of typical demands that the game of tennis places on you, regardless of your opponent (even if I just feed the ball to you):
- finding the proper angle of the racquet head
- finding the optimal speed of the stroke
- getting to the right distance from the ball in time
- maintaining good balance while moving and hitting
- swinging at the ball at the right time
- and many more.
Now here are examples of the challenges that are the result of playing an opponent:
- trying to outmaneuver and outsmart your opponent - winning the strategy game
- trying to anticipate your opponent's game and shots
- tempering your emotional involvement in the battle with your opponent
- controlling your shots when your opponent puts pressure on you, either with the speed or direction of their shots
- and many more.
When you consider all these challenges, you see that they are quite demanding and interesting to deal with. You surely gain pleasure and satisfaction by overcoming them.
But they are just the challenges of a game, similar to a computer video game, in which you must solve problems to win against the final boss.
Yet many of us become totally obsessed with tennis and treat it as the most important thing in our lives.
I see many kids and families invest so much time, energy and money in tennis that I often wonder if they can see the big picture.
You are merely trying to become highly skilled in a sports discipline.
Now think about it - is your time, money and energy REALLY worth becoming just highly skilled in one sports discipline? Aren't there MORE important things in life?
Where do you rank the importance if these things?
- your relationship with your spouse
- a reliable business or job position with good income
- your relationship with your parents and children
- having many good and trustworthy friends
- living a healthy lifestyle and taking good care of your body.
Do you think any of these things can actually compare with the importance of being really skilled in tennis?
I personally don't think so.
There is always a but, right? ;)
Here is why I play tennis, coach tennis and mentor tennis players: I see it as a training ground for life.
I clearly see that tennis is just a game and, in my opinion, mastering a topspin serve out wide with good kick isn't really important in life. ;)
But, WHILE you are trying to achieve that serve, you uncover many weaknesses in your personality and your attitude toward yourself, toward tennis, toward others and toward life.
During your involvement in tennis, for many years, you will HAVE to eliminate those weaknesses. You will have to grow as a person and learn hundreds of things about life that work and don't work.
The game of tennis is a greatly accelerated training ground for life.
For example, if you hit the ball with fear and doubt, you will get IMMEDIATE feedback - missing the shot in most cases.
Then you might try to hit with decisiveness and total commitment. Again, you'll get immediate feedback - most likely making the shot.
Life doesn't usually teach you lessons that fast.
You might approach a business situation with fear and doubt, and the results occur months from now, when your business stops bringing income. By that time, you will have made so many other decisions and taken so many other actions that you will not see the cause of your failure.
So, when you see tennis as an accelerated training ground to grow as a person and learn what works in tennis and consequently in life, then investing a lot of time, money and energy in tennis is a sound decision.
Some of the most important things that you can learn through tennis are:
1. Approaching the situation with fear and doubt almost never results in a positive outcome.
2. It takes a lot of effort, time and patience to become a master of something.
3. When you become good at something, you gain the confidence and hope to try other challenging things in life, which in turn give you much greater rewards than chasing small goals.
4. Analyzing the situation too much is not as good as going with your instincts.
5. But understanding the game well gives you a great advantage over your competition.
6. Repetition is the mother of skill.
7. Some of your thoughts are false, and believing them will hurt you. You learn to check your automatic thoughts against reality (facts) and ignore or change them if they are not true.
8. Most emotions, and your responses based on them, hurt your performance. You learn to release emotions in an appropriate way and at appropriate time (after the match).
9. You learn to channel emotions for more energy and achieve more than if you were numb.
10. And you learn repeatedly that approaching ANY situation with fear and doubt doesn't work in the long term.
Why did I reiterate in the last point what I said in the first?
Because fear is your greatest enemy regardless of what you are trying to achieve.
Tennis is a precise feedback "game" of what happens when you try a shot or a strategy with fear in your mind. The feedback is so clear and obvious - that fear doesn't work - that sooner or later you start questioning your fear and decide to have courage.
And tennis will respond appropriately.
And once you become aware of this connection - how fear affects the outcome - you will become bolder in other areas of your life.
And for that, I believe tennis is worth investing in.