By Marc Sophoulis
The COVID pandemic has been a challenging situation right across the world. It has sent people into lockdown, closed down sports centres and canceled sporting events right across the globe, not to mention taken many casualties along the way.
For a long time I've discussed with my athletes how tennis teaches us life lessons more than any other sport in the world. How you ask?
Being an individual sport, tennis teaches us to be independent. We have to become experts in problem solving as well as being adaptable to handle the ever changing situations the game gives us.
Through this global pandemic people have been confined to their homes, had their businesses closed down, lost jobs and have been forced to spend large amounts of time alone. Being lonely is something tennis players know well. We know how to deal with our own thoughts, as we are constantly doing that on and off the court in tennis. Data tells us that in every match the ball is only in play for approximately 25% of the time, therefore leaving 75% of the time immersed in our own thoughts. We are constantly challenged under pressure to think for ourselves and the habit of independent thinking is ingrained in our DNA.
During a tennis match we are forced to make constant decisions and solve multiple problems. Every ball, every movement, every point, every game, every set and every match throws up multiple challenging situations for players to have to think through, whilst being on ‘centre stage’, with no one to help them except themselves. Through this pandemic its been amazing to see professional players on social media creating ways of staying active, starting podcasts, being on zoom calls with each other and engaging audiences. Tennis players find ways, not ways out. Next time you are on the court think about how much you are implicitly learning through the game of tennis.
Playing different opponents every match, on different surfaces, with different balls at every tournament whilst possibly being in different countries with different timezones every week, teaches players to be adaptable. Tennis throws up so many challenges daily. The COVID Crisis has taught us that we sometimes need to adapt to the changing landscape. We need to remove ourselves from our comfort zone and find a way to proceed. It is only at the end of our comfort zone that we allow ourselves to grow.
We've put together 10 life lessons that tennis helps to teach you, part of the The Tennis Menu Training Journal, available at www.thetennismenu.com
1. The journey to the top of the game takes a long time. Well, the facts are the average age of a top 100 player is 28 years old for men and 26 years old for women.
Lesson: You will learn so much along the way that will help you in all aspects of your life. Being patient and planning long term goals is one of them.
2. Tennis is a lonely sport. There is no one to turn to when you're in the heat of battle.
Lesson: You will learn to become independent, think for yourself and become a great problem solver and decision maker.
3. You will lose a lot. In fact, the data says you will lose approximately 75% of the time you play from the start of your career to the end.
Lesson: Life is full of disappointments, tennis teaches you that not everything in life will go your way.
4. Tennis takes up a lot of time and energy. People say it takes a lot of sacrifice to achieve a high level of sport.
Lesson: It's not a sacrifice if you are doing the thing you love the most. TENNIS!
5. Tennis is a year long sport. Tournaments run all year and if you concern yourself with rankings you can burn yourself out.
Lesson: You will learn to prioritise what is important for you and learn not to worry about the little things. Planning is a big part of tennis and life. PLAN WELL!
6. Doing everything right and playing to your best doesn't always ensure we win the match.
Lesson: Doing everything right gives us the best chance of performance, but sometimes there is someone who performs better than you on the day. Life is about accepting losses and turning them into small wins.
7. Tennis costs a lot of money to be able to become good.
Lesson: You are investing in yourself to become the best person you can be. "You are a person a lot longer than you are a tennis player".
8. You will meet so many people along your journey. Life is about building relationships.
Lesson: It's not about what you know in life, it's about who you know. Treat people how you would like to be treated and you never know when one day you might cross paths again.
9. In tennis the best players only win approximately 53% of points in the entire year. eg Nadal's winning percentage on clay is 54% even though he has won 59 clay court titles.
Lesson: It is the person who can stay present in their thinking and keep a process mindset that gets the results. Dwelling on things in the past doesn't allow you to control the present.
10. You will go through a rollercoaster ride of so many ups and downs, but it's about staying strong and hanging in there.
Lesson: Most people quit when they are just about to achieve greatness, tennis teaches you to stay the path, hang in there and never give up.
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