Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tennis Lesson - Part II

The most popular form of tennis involves the one-on-one elimination tournament. The tennis player is forced into a series of solitary battles against a wide variety of competitors - from young to old, mediocre to masterful. A loss means that the tournament is over. A victory quickly brings on the next challenge.

Even a minimal analysis of tennis makes a few valuable themes clear. These lessons can be applied by others who face similar personal and professional hurdles and by those who manage those lone-operators. The main take-aways include:
  • External factors must be managed. Tennis is played all across the world on a diverse set of courts - which are made up of grass, clay, etc. A player's level of success often varies widely depending on the environment.
  • Morale can quickly affect the outcome. A single "bad" officiating decision or other conflict can instantly derail a tennis player. The lone competitor doesn't have the benefit of teammates or peers to buffer or refocus anger. His own emotions can fester and grow. His mind works without the ability to share thoughts or fears with a coach during the match.
  • A complete understanding and comfort with one's tools is required. Many tennis players have experienced a significant decline in their success after switching rackets. The lone competitor reacts disproportionately to a change in his toolset. The racket represents something that a player can completely control - a way to compensate for the environment or emotional outbursts.
  • The right preparation is vital. Because the smallest on-court decisions can lead to victory or defeat, tennis players spend years practicing. They develop the necessary physical skills and the mental abilities to properly react to different scenarios. Because the game is so fast and so involved - preparation is usually far more important than talent.
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