For the past several weeks, I’ve been driving up a couple of days a week to work out with the girls’ tennis team at Northern Vance High School. My buddy Jeff Arthurs invited me to help out with some of the drills and offer general encouragement. What’s been amazing to me is how much I enjoy the time hitting with these ladies as well as how emotionally involved I get when I watch them play.
One of the most gratifying feelings a teacher or coach must experience is when students “get it” and begin to apply their newfound knowledge. I come home from each practice just totally rocked because one or two of the girls has made progress on her ground strokes or volleys. Although I want to see each of them “kick butt” in their matches, what I really want to see long-term is for them to develop into well-rounded, well-grounded, confident women. I believe that when one’s confidence grows in one area of life, it builds a foundation for confidence in other areas as well.
One of the aspects of tennis, and athletics in general, that I appreciate is how much of competition is psychological. It’s a head game as much as it is a physical one. As I watched matches at Wimbledon and the US Open this year, I saw the pros affected by their mental lapses just as much as these high school players are. And I’ve seen how much of an emotional/mental bounce comes from a well-hit winner.
Other life lessons I’m reminded of each time I go out to the courts are the importance of persistence and conditioning. In sports, it’s usually called hustle.
I’ve found that it’s difficult to consistently hustle on the court without conditioning – both mental and physical. Too often we mistakenly believe that more talent or knowledge is all we need to succeed in our endeavors, but as I recently read on a t-shirt, “Hustle doesn’t require any talent.”
That’s not to say that talent isn’t important, it’s just that persistence and conditioning can prepare the way for talent to show itself as it develops. My high school coach made us chase down every ball that came over the net and hit it back with the reasoning that even if we didn’t get to it on the first bounce that time, by developing a “get to it” mindset, we eventually would.
I still remind myself that I can’t hit a winner if I don’t get to the ball.
Joining these ladies on the court has been a blast for me. Don’t know how much I’m helping them but they allow me a great opportunity to learn from their growth.
More to come…