Quit: to give up or resign; let go; relinquish.
Have you ever heard or uttered the words “I quit” after a disappointing tennis loss? How did you react?
No-one likes to lose and as a matter of fact the desire not to lose can be the greatest motivation to drive us toward winning. When we lose we experience a wide array of emotions such as depression, failure, anger, resentment, sadness, anxiety, frustration, and feelings of inadequacy. Most of us know that sinking feeling that comes with losing and we never want to experience it again. It is the desire to avoid those feelings that will fuel a successful athlete to practice harder, train harder and try harder in preparation for the next match. So losing should become the motivation for winning.
“I quit,” therefore may just be a gut reaction in an attempt to avoid those negative feelings. A junior player doesn’t have the maturity or life experience to understand that they won’t feel this way forever. This is where you have the opportunity to teach them one of the great life lessons that comes from playing tennis. Use your loss as a motivation to win. Don’t over react to the statement especially if it is during the throes of an emotional meltdown. Just listen and understand that it is the feelings they want to quit not tennis. Make sure you as a parent or coach are not adding to the pressure to win that will, in turn, increase the feelings of inadequacy.
There are times when an athlete may say “I quit” and actually mean it. Perhaps the competition has taken away the passion and joy they originally had for the sport. If you have a competitive athlete and they tell you they want to quit, it may be the competition they want to give up not the sport. Listen to what they are telling you and ask what you can do to help. Playing tennis in a less competitive arena is an acceptable option and perhaps they will return to competition in the future. Personally, I think we as parents and coaches are usually the number on reason why our junior players quit playing (you can hate me for saying it, but it’s true) If we back away from their game perhaps they will not.
The next time you hear the words “I quit” after another heart breaking loss, cheer up! Your athlete may finally be ready to turn his game around, because he/she is “quitting” losing and is ready to be motivated to win. If you don’t want to feel the effects of losing again, then you have to play better so that losing isn’t an option.