Venus Williams of the United States returns to Britain’s Johanna Konta, during their Women’s Singles semifinal match on day nine at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Thursday, July 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
We could not help but stop and read this wonderful article by Francis Bridges, a Forbes Contributor and then…. just HAD to share it!
With the Wimbledon Championships this weekend and the US Open approaching in August, tennis is in the heart of its slam season. Tennis fans wax poetic about tennis, often because it is the sport that most closely resembles life. Unlike many other largely individual sports such as running, swimming, cycling, diving, etc., it’s not about trying to reach a finish line the fastest, or performing a certain routine to perfection; it’s about constantly critiquing your own game while simultaneously responding to your opponent’s. The raw grit necessary to have a successful tennis career is the same as earning success in any other field – ultimately it’s not completely about luck or genius, it’s about not giving up when you fall behind and things get really, really hard, and to unrelentingly strengthen your weaknesses. Playing tennis teaches you a lot about yourself: the depth of your inner strength, your discipline, your tenacity and the mastery of your emotions. It all boils down to how hard you are willing to work to better yourself, and to win.
Here are a few career lessons we can learn from tennis:
1. You’re Responsible For The Outcome
Tennis is an individual sport – you have complete control over the quality of your performance. There are no team members to blame, you shoulder the responsibility for the outcome, just like in life. You can’t let things like weather or your emotions distract your focus from the task at hand: winning the next point, the game, the set, the match. When you play tennis, you’re really competing with yourself. You’re perpetually trying to improve: to hit shots faster, improve placement, surprise your opponent, make your footwork more efficient than it was the last point. That’s your job on the court. If you try to blame others, like the coach, the opponent, the referee, etc., you’re only hurting your game by not accepting your role in the outcome.
2. You Must Be Hyperaware Of Yourself
Becoming a great tennis player is similar to being an excellent professional, you’re constantly analyzing your weaknesses and strengths, and adjusting your game: based on the surface you’re playing on, the weather, your opponent, etc. You’re tweaking everything from your grip to your footwork exhaustively, to the point that after years and years, logic becomes instinct. During matches you’re trying to mask your weaknesses, and during practice you’re working tirelessly to make them strengths.
You must also be very conscious of your emotions and state of mind, and acknowledge what frustrates you and learn to control it in the moment. This is just as important, perhaps even more so than the technical, physical adjustments of the game. You can sabotage yourself by getting frustrated or being defeatist. Learning how to precisely manage yourself, and to stay calm and to dig deep in high pressure, high stakes situations can turn the tide of a match and a career.
The sport is built on a million small and big opportunities for failure. You can lose: points, games, sets, matches and tournaments. The match is not over until a player has won two (for women) or three (for men) sets. Unless you win a tennis tournament, you lose it. You will lose hundreds of points, 10s of games and maybe a set or two throughout the course of a match you ultimately win. There’s not much time to celebrate or despair over the results, because there’s another tournament to be played, and another point, game, set, match to be won. Great tennis players are unfazed by failure in the moment, they wait until the match is over to let emotions to set in. Getting accustomed to failure and learning how to handle it well is what success is built upon – loads and loads of failure. The greatest champions have lost far more than they’ve succeeded, but we’re in awe of all of their success. The failures fade into the background, and people forget how much champions need to fail for them to have great success.
4. Never Rest On Your Laurels
If you’ve won the first handful of points or games, well done, but the match isn’t over until you win two or three sets. Momentum can change on a dime- your opponent is adjusting their game as much as you are to see what is effective. As soon as your focus wanes, and you start to mail it in, your opponent deuces the game, ties up the sets and you’re back to square one, figuring out how to beat them all over again. You must stay ngaged in your performance regardless of how far ahead you are, because you never know when circumstances will shift: your opponent will improve their game, yours will fault, it could be too hot, or it could rain, etc. There are many factors that could change the course of the match, it is not over until it’s over- so don’t rest on your laurels.
5. It’s Mostly Mental
Unlike many sports, if you’re the strongest, fastest and most athletic tennis player it does not mean you are the best tennis player. It helps, but it’s not how you win a championships. It’s about shrewd ball placement, athleticism, exploiting your enemies weaknesses, emphasizing your strengths and having complete control over your mental state. Your confidence can’t be at the whims of every point, game or set lost. Knowing how to remain calm, not feeling discouraged or frustrated throughout a match can make all the difference. You can beat a superior player by never getting rattled, being unfazed by the current state of the game, and playing the best tennis you can in that moment. Nothing is more unnerving than playing someone who can not be discouraged, and refuses to lose no matter how far behind they get.
6. Don’t Quit When The Chips Are Down
To build on the point that tennis is a mostly mental game, a huge aspect of winning a match is not despairing when the chips are down. Being a great tennis player in some ways is like being great at anything, it’s not about being a prodigy, a genius, or a once in a generation athlete, it’s about not quitting when the chips are down, and gutting it out. You have to get comfortable in positions where the odds are against you. There is another point, another game, another set, another match to be won. Staying the course, and absolutely refusing to go down has turned matches on its head- it’s part of what makes tennis so exciting, you watch people regain confidence in real time. Sometimes you’ll come out on top simply because you refused to throw in the towel. There have been epic three and five set matches, where a player was down one or two sets, and they came back to win the match. The greatest tennis players, like Serena Williams and Roger Federer, regularly find themselves trailing 40-15 or 40 love in games, score three points in a row to make it deuce, and go on to win the game. Even when they’re a point away from losing, they absolutely refuse to give in- because they know if they give up they’ll lose.
Amazing life lessons here. Absolutely amazingly “spot-on” life lessons! Whatever it is your goal to do, if you use these pointers, you will succeed, for sure.
And today, I am thrilled to wish my darling Chum, Robin, a birthday filled with love and joy. Robin and I have learned together a lot of these “tennis” life lessons and what a really wonderful classroom it has been.
You could not ask for a lovelier person to learn with. We have shared tons of laughter, a few tears, and the joy of helping each other along the way. Truly, Robin is a remarkable person who always thinks of the other person first. To you, my darling Chum, Happy Birthday! May your glass always be full to overflowing.