For well over a decade from my early teens, I played Saturday afternoon club tennis, mostly at Cowells Lane Reserve in Ermington and the North Parramatta courts in competitions managed by the Parramatta-Granville and Districts Hardcourt Tennis Association.
As a left-hander I had the natural advantage of a swing serve to the opponent’s backhand on the advantage side of the court (consult Dr Google if you don’t know what I’m talking about here). I really loved practicing and playing when things were going well. However, if I’m being honest, I was never the most resilient of players when things started turning against me.
Tennis is one of those games played very much between the ears as on the court. On days when my form wasn’t the best and I was missing shots that I would ordinarily make, I found it very difficult to switch off that small voice in my head, reminding me in a gradually more aggressive tone about that old problem showing up again….. As the errors mounted the inevitable eventually happened: I lost the match and then spent the rest of the afternoon worrying about what my double partner and teammates that I’d just let down thought about me.
Many years later I’m much more aware of what’s involved in staying in the moment, and endlessly curious about effective mental processes for being fully present when it matters. As an aside, I’ve also learnt that it’s not just amateurs that can suffer from the tennis version of the yips…. Let’s briefly turn though, to the concerns many of us have from time to time regarding what others might be thinking of us (either real or imagined).
We live in an era of social media, where everyone wealthy enough to own a smartphone possesses the opportunity to instantly share an opinion. This certainly seems to have emboldened our collective ability to express a personal opinion, whether in cyberspace or in real time.
If you’re equally comfortable taking on or ignoring others’ opinions as you see fit, congratulations!
However, if the pressure of opinions is holding you back and interfering with your ability to focus on what needs to be done to move forward, remember this:
They’re the ones in the stands, observing the game (and most probably passing judgement on exactly what you’re doing wrong).
You though, are the one on the court, playing the game!
The only one in that moment, with the view that matters.
Author of “The Steel Ceiling: Achieving Sustainable Growth in Engineering and Construction” Wiley, 2023