More than a Game - May 24

tennis-racketTennis is a microcosm of life! The athletic arena has adversity and stress. It forces you to deal with all sorts of people and dispenses regular doses of failure. Tennis can teach a work ethic that will enable you to push yourself to new heights.

The key to success in tennis is an athlete’s ability to deal with constantly changing conditions. How well they can adapt often determines their success. For example, players must be able to adapt to weather conditions, court surfaces, opponents shots, and how well they are playing on a given day. This is true in life as well and you must be able to meet the challenges these changing conditions bring on through internal abilities.

Tennis can also ingrain ethical integrity in all you say and do on the court. It can help strengthen who you are and what you stand for. Just the same, it can undermine what you once stood for and become a stumbling block by reconstructing your moral framework. Competitive tennis can be, and often is, a very cut-throat and volatile arena. There are countless opportunities for your ethical framework to be either more firmly established or detrimentally reconstructed.

Athletes train for competition with the expectation of being their best. They do this knowing the competition will do everything they can to bring out the worst in them. Thus, they hope for the best in the arena but train by anticipating what the worst might be. The worse the situation gets, the better the athlete must become.

To accomplish this they must acquire both external and internal disciplines. By internal training I refer to mental and emotional skills needed to perform at their best. Many players will often neglect this internal training, yet lack of it often sabotages their physical skills in critical stages of competition.

Internal training requires athletes to train mentally by developing better critical thinking skills, such as problem solving and creativity. Development here enables them to learn to command their body towards its best use. Their mind becomes just one more weapon in their arsenal. Internal training also requires players to control their emotions. Emotions must support them in trials, not destroy them. Negative emotions such as anger, fear, or discouragement impede their ability to think rationally and clearly. Positive ones such as courage, patience, and encouragement stimulate rational and reliable thinking. This enables them to stay composed when all around them seems chaotic.

When people learn tennis, they learn much more than just a physical skill. They learn about themselves. The better they know themselves the better they can control themselves. If players can control themselves so that only the best thoughts and emotions are being used then they will have a positive impact on their matches.

Emotionally and mentally positive players impact the match more than the match impacts them. On the other hand if negative thoughts and emotions are being used then the match has brought out the worst in them. It has impacted them more than they have impacted it.

Tennis, more so than most sports, teaches athletes how to make the most of their internal abilities so they can get the most out of their physical abilities. Only when there is unity in the body, internally and externally, can they reach their full potential in the arena.