Ten Things Tennis Taught Me

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1. It's not the girl on the other side of the court you need to beat, it's yourself.
While tennis is clearly physical, the majority of the game depends on your mental toughness.  There have been many times when the girl across the net didn't measure up to my physical game but her mental game dominated mine.  Doubting myself will never allow me to accomplish the job I need to do.  My biggest opponent is the little version of myself shouting negativity inside my head.  Defeating her grants me the opportunity to truly discover my capabilities.

2. Sometimes, no matter how great your shot is the ball can come back.
Even if my mental and physical game are perfectly in-sync with one another, it doesn't mean that every shot I take is going to be a winner.  I will make mistakes, I will be beaten but the goal is to give 100% to every single moment.

3. Trust your gut.
No matter how much time you spend with your coach and how much she prepares you for various scenarios, the person making the final decision in each moment is you.  Go with your gut.

4. Take responsibility when you mess up.
It is so much easier to point my finger and say, "But I listened to my coach!"  If you learn early on to take ownership for your mistakes and faults, it becomes increasingly easier to identify when you're about to make another mistake and avoid it.

5. If you don't practice you'll never get better.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's something I tend to forget and then seem shocked when I rediscover this truth.  Natural talent can only drive you so far.  If I want to succeed in any aspect of my life, I can't stop practicing.  I want to go to grad school?  Then I'm going to have to work my butt off to get there.  Anything worth it in this life takes practice and hard work.

6. You will be cheated out of a point.
At some point, someone is going to steal a point from me, intentionally or unintentionally.  When you're judging you're own matches, it is easy to become frustrated with calls that seem unfair.  The truth is no matter how well you're playing or how amazing that shot truly was, you could lose

7.  When you're cheated out of a point, your reaction to that moment determines the way you will play for the remainder of the game.
If I get frustrated and allow that frustration to enter my game, I am more likely to mess up and spiral downward.  I can choose to let this affect my game or shrug it off and continue to put my best foot forward.  If I react negatively to every bad thing that happens to me, I'm the one who loses.

8. Trust your partner to have your back.
Doubles can be terrifying.  When you're up at the net, you're trusting your partner to get the shot you can't and, fingers crossed, not nail you in the back.  Sometimes they call a shot that you know you could volley cross-court but you have to learn to trust their judgement.  They can see the whole court while your limited view might not be taking into account how close the opponent's net player truly is.  I learned to trust my partner to always have our best interests at heart, even when I initially disagreed.

9. Communicate effectively.
If I can't communicate to my partner what I need from her or where my location is, we'll both end up on the same side of the court and leave us exposed.  A breakdown in communication could destroy us.  This is a general rule in all relationships.

10. The games I laughed through, even when they were losses, were worth far more to me than the ones I won in anger.
Sure, sometimes anger and emotions are a strong motivator in any sport, but the games I remember fondly aren't the ones I won in frustration and mental exhaustion.  I remember laughing with my opponent.  I remember walking away from losses smiling and happily shaking her hand.  I remember tidbits of conversation we shared in between games.  Specifically, one match I was getting on really well with the girl and it was still a difficult match.  We were both playing our hearts out with mutual respect until my coach hollered at me to quit making friends.  I stopped being polite and became stone faced and nasty.  I lost the match, one that I probably should have one.  We were girls in high school having fun; neither of us were ever making it to the US Open.  Sometimes you need to have perspective and understand that while competition is healthy, none of it is worth it if you don't enjoy yourself.


  1. Thank you for this post, Jen. It is apparent that every word came from a genuine perspective; one which has experienced the intrinsic magic that sports can weave upon a young soul. All 10 of your bullet points conjured up memories of sporting days past, both good and bad.

    You bring up a great point in #10...even the games that resulted in losses were sometimes worth far more than the ones that resulted in W's. It is all a matter of perspective and the manner in which you achieve the outcome, regardless of win or loss. This is just one great example of how sports can inject us with wisdom that can transcend the painted lines of a court, and help us on our life's journey. I feel like I could write for days on this subject, but don't want to further bore your fellow readers :) Thanks again and keep writing!

    1. Derek, as always thanks for taking the time to stop by! Especially when you were one of my favorites to play tennis with!! There's too much of a focus on sporting events as an either or: win or lose. If you think that way, you miss out on these amazing opportunities for growth.


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