More than a Game - October 26, 2021

tennis39To eradicate the monsters of cheating, foul language, intimidation, gamesmanship, making excuses, tanking, choking, and trash talking on the court we will need to create a whole new way of thinking and speaking. What I have been talking about in this blog for the past several months has been about changing how players think; in the next couple weeks I would like to change how players talk.

The current “tennis world” will not understand this language. Winning is too deeply entrenched and will not be easily uprooted. However, players can compete in this world with a whole new perspective. They do not have to give in to the terrorist’s tactics now used. In fact, a more dignified and honorable way of competing can and must be devised. This language will then make the current gap between winners and losers that is currently miles wide, miniscule at the worst and nonexistent at best.

Today in the “tennis world” athletes compete in matches; the outcome is all that matters. Once the match is over the results determine everything; they are what you have worked for. All that you care about is the end-result, nothing else really matters. How you did, determines who you are and what reward you will receive.

For instance, a high school tennis team is evaluated on their won-loss record. How good of a team you had will be dictated by your year-end ranking or how far you went in the season-ending state tournament. Coaching decisions will be made on this record as well; whether the current coach comes back will largely be based on the team and player records. In the world of college athletics, the team record says it all.

This new language says the opposite. The new language we are creating shall be called “Tennis is LIFE.” Everything about this language is different just like a foreign language is different than English. If you don’t speak the language, you won’t understand what is being discussed. We will start from scratch as we create this language; this will include goals, expectations, means of evaluation, ethics and key skills being utilized.

When a doctor explains intricate details of a procedure to his patient, he often uses medical language. This language will not be understood unless it is explained to you. He must speak in a language you can understand, or you will not be able to communicate with him or analyze what he is saying.

The same is true with tennis. This language must be understood not just by the players. It must be understood by parents, peers and all coaches involved. Once it is understood it must be the sole means of communication for all who seek to evaluate a match. It must be used consistently and persistently. The more it is used the more fluent players will become with it.

Tennis is LIFE is a language. However, players must know that the “tennis world” will not understand it because they don’t know the terms. I would like to create an understanding of what this language is. Some of the terminology may be a review of previous concepts, but the review is needed to reinforce the language.

One of the major themes we have stressed, and the foundation of this new language, is that the match results tell nothing about what happened on the court. Therefore, they should not be used as an evaluation tool for players and coaches. How well players solved problems, their critical thinking, their intensity, how well they hustled, court ethics, sportsmanship and their emotional control are what matter. These can only be determined by the processes used in the match. The results tell none of it.

What players do in the match forms them as a player so what they do in the match is what must be critically evaluated. If they hustled for every ball they did well. If they did not miss a line call, they must be pleased. If they were always fully in control of their emotions, success was achieved. This is how we must talk and evaluate their performance.