More than a Game - June 14, 2021

TipsTop athletes must have their best matches on their worst days. They must train to play in “the zone” constantly. In other words, the goal must be to present “the best version of me” on the court throughout the competition. This means as a player you have reached your full potential physically, mentally, and emotionally. When this is accomplished, winning falls into place. In other words, your chances to win are optimized because when you are at your best your chances to win are elevated to their highest level.

Reaching our full potential means we can’t get any more out of ourselves than we have. Think about it this way. You can only get 16 ounces of water in a 16-ounce glass. If you try to put 18 ounces of water in a 16-ounce glass, the last two ounces of water will spill out. In terms of your performance, you can only reach your full potential, asking you for more is asking you to give what you don’t have to give.

When you play tennis, you must seek to become better, in all aspects of “you.” Then you will seek to train in such a way as to push or extend those limits. You will seek to increase your capacity physically, mentally, and emotionally. This then will enable you to train to reach new heights; it will seek to make your 16-ounce glass of water a new glass that will hold 17 or 18 ounces of water. However, at any given time your potential is limited by the size of your glass.

To reach your full potential in a match, you must become a better critical thinker, problem solver and creative thinker as well as more emotionally stable. These internal skills will develop better external proficiencies along the way. The development of these skills is most demanded when the stakes are the highest. The worse the situation is in a crisis, the more important it is that you are at your best.

When life is at its worst, or “storms” arise, these abilities are often at low levels. This is seen when an athlete is cheated, he or she becomes angry and impatient, not calm and patient. When a player double faults three times in a row, he or she becomes discouraged. If a player loses the first set badly and is down a break in the second set, he or she will more often doubt themselves than trust themselves. The “storms” usually make them worse not better.

In these situations, players are most in need of reaching their full potential. Their training must enable them in “storms” and not allow their natural tendencies to disable them. To put this another way, athletes must train to be their best when the situation is at its worst. The question is how do they do that?

This is where playing only to “win” often sabotages a player’s ability. The overwhelming desire to win increases the stakes but gives little assistance in the means and methods to accomplish the victory. Conversely when the goal is to increase the means and methods to enable you to reach your full potential, not focusing strictly on the outcome, the stakes decrease while the available resources increase. Simply put, less stress means more opportunity for success.

Athletes have many internal resources available to them that they never fully tap into during a match. They often use most of their physical abilities but seldom use all of their spiritual abilities. The goal of reaching your full potential seeks to increase awareness of these spiritual areas and to utilize them to their fullest. These internal areas of mental and emotional competence become new resources of power that enable an athlete to “dig deeper.”

When the goal is not just to grow “thinking skills” but “emotional skills” then a player is able to act in “storms,” rather than react to them. Athletes respond to events in the arena emotionally first; this then enables them or disables them as they perform. The emotional response will then decide whether clear or confused thinking will follow. When we react hysterically and desperately to trials, we seldom are able to analyze the situation correctly. Conversely when we act calmly and controlled, we are able to sort through our best course of action.

Winning does not tell you how to do any of this because it is an end, an outcome. It simply says get it done. When you have to win but have no idea how, anxiety and stress will grow, and performance will decline. Conversely, when you focus strictly on the means to make yourself better, you become more prepared, powerful and proficient; all this while the stress goes down in the process.