I am on my way to the big match and all I hear is about how amazing his game is. He is sure he has the biggest serve of anyone in the tournament, he is “pounding” his forehand, the net game is “totally” on, he goes on and on. You smile to yourself as you hear the list of attributes grow longer and longer. You welcome the confidence and your heart fills with yet a little more pride as he continues to tell you how awesome he is.
The game doesn’t go quite the way he planned, perhaps his opponent was just a little more amazing than he was. The ride home sounds a little different. No longer is he awesome, now he “sucks and is a loser.” How can one’s self-worth drop so far in a mere two hours?
Gently I remind him of the conversation on the way to the match. “Did you suck and where you a loser before the match?” I ask. No reply. “Two hours ago you thought you where pretty amazing, what has changed in you that you are no longer awesome?” Again no answer, but I can see him thinking about it.
Recently I wrote an article about a balanced life for our junior tennis players. It is this balance that will allow our child to become more than just their tennis. They need to have time to go to the movies, shoot hoops at the park, pursue a little music, or art, or just hang out with their friends. These other activities will help them to add more dimensions to their personality, they can be something more than a tennis player. Identifying themselves too heavily with their tennis adds more pressure when they compete. They are not merely trying to beat their opponent, they are trying to save their “life.” How can they possibly relax on the court if they feel like they will lose their value if they lose their match?
Now when a match doesn’t go the way he wants he is still disappointed, he is a competitor after all, but he isn’t a loser and he doesn’t “suck.” His game may “suck” but he doesn’t. The best part of this is that he has something he can work on. It is much easier to fix your game than to fix “you.” No longer do we have to go through the mourning period after the loss, now he’s hopping in the car to meet his friends for dinner or a movie. It’s a much nicer place to be.
Help your junior tennis player to separate his/her tennis from his/her self. The first step is to make sure their tennis isn’t your life. Next remind them of what an awesome person they are outside of tennis and help them to find balance in their life.
So you lost the tennis match? You didn’t lose who you are!