More than a Game - August 10

tennis-manTennis Spiritual Truth #3—Who you are on the court is more important than how you are playing on the court; how you are playing will be forgotten in 10 years but who you are on the court establishes who you will be in 10 years.

The decisions we make in our lives today become part of us tomorrow. This will then form our attitudes, behaviors and ultimately our personality. Therefore what we do makes a big difference and the choices we make are critically important to forming our character.

This is easily seen in everyday life. No one sets out to become addicted to drugs, smoking, or alcohol, but statistics reveal millions of addicts in all three areas. We have one cigarette or one beer or take one illegal drug and the momentum has started. This does not mean that all who engage in these behaviors become addicted, yet for those who are addicted it all started with a first time. No one becomes addicted who has never had a first time exposure. Abstinence works 100% of the time.

The same applies to tennis matches. What we do in a match how we think, how we treat our opponent, the ethics we use will shape our personality. What is worse if it is a repeat action it reinforces this behavior in us making it more difficult to eliminate this behavior next time. Therefore when we react in anger to a missed shot, and impulsively throw our racket, we make it easier to do this again and start a habit.

I learned this first hand in my own life. I had a temper on court and had a “potty mouth” when I played. It became instinctive to swear when I missed easy shots or lost big points. When I became the head pro here at FWCC I knew that this had to stop. I realized that members would watch me play in local tournaments and this would reflect on me as a pro. The opinions of the members would be formed by how I acted in practice matches at the club. I had to stop swearing on court. It was much harder to stop now that I had formed this bad habit.

I made the commitment to make sure I was always a “head pro” wherever I played. All I did on court would be a reflection of me. Therefore I would not drop my racket on court, I would not yell or swear, and I would always be in control of me at all times. In order to be in control of me at all times I found the most critical time for self-control was around 5-10 seconds after the point was over. This is the time when temper tantrums were most likely to occur.

I found out that by controlling myself in this short time frame I was able to control my emotions on court as well.  Waiting 5-10 seconds after a missed shot then dropping my racket seemed weird and unnatural. I found if I could make it through the five seconds after a missed shot I could control my anger. Once this became my new habit I had control over my previously uncontrolled anger.

I made another discovery along the way, when I controlled my temper I played better. I could focus on the next point not carry baggage from the last point that would ultimately weigh me down. I enjoyed competing more and understood you can control your temper, you just need a big enough incentive.

This incentive process is the way our criminal justice system works. We seek to put a punishment great enough to deter future crimes. If there is no fear of punishment the crime becomes easier to commit. The more you deter a crime, and the earlier you catch it, the less likely it will be committed.

Other vices are built into players through the participation in tennis as well. These come about as choices that are made match by match and practice by practice. Right thinking today stops wrongful actions tomorrow.