A friend of mine suggested that I enter a tennis tournament.
My first reaction? Mild panic.
I have a love-hate relationship with tennis. I love playing and getting better, but I hate making mistakes in public. And there’s nothing more public than playing matches that are observed, and then recorded on a website.
I know I’m not alone…
Men’s singles generally draw four times as many entries as women’s singles. Actually, I know quite a number of women who play only with friends with the specific aim of avoiding competition.
I’d like to explore the foundation of that fear in this blog. It’s just one of the many quirky things that distinguish women from men at the club level.
But back to the tournament – if I’m serious about getting better, then putting myself in awkward situations is a must.
So not only did I enter the tournament, but I went all out: ladies singles, ladies doubles and mixed doubles.
My biggest worry centered on my ladies’ singles match, which as fate had it, was first. My opponent looked serious, like she’d done this before. She even had a stretching routine!
As I try to ignore her, I start the warm-up without too many errors, and I get thinking, maybe this will be ok. Then, the match starts.
I hit the ball… long. Then, I hit it in the net. Before you know it, I’m losing badly. Really badly, like 6-0 badly, and the set is over in the blink of an eye.
But I get thinking – she’s not really *that* good. It’s mostly me being tense, overhitting the ball and going for shots that just aren’t there. What if I try something different?
So, I start going for less and settle in for the long haul. The mood subtly shifts. The rallies take longer and she looks puzzled. Then, she starts missing shots and losing patience. Then, partway through the set, she looks visibly frustrated and hits a ball into the net. I’ve gotten under her skin! Now, this is fun.
The second set takes twice as long as the first. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t pull a rabbit out of my hat. I lose with a final score of 6-0, 6-3.
But I feel great. I’ve made her run, I’ve made her stretch and I made a good set out of it.
This quiet match in this tiny tournament turns out to be the perfect start. I have a long way to go, but if I can learn to stay calm under pressure, I know I can get better.