For the first time in about a decade, I entered my first competitive tournament this month. I've regularly competed in leagues over this time, but participating in a knock-out tournament is a completely different experience.
When I was growing up, playing tournaments was always nerve-racking for me. I would battle nervousness and fought hard to trust in my game. Fast forward to this month's tournament, after roughly 30 years of playing and coaching experience, and I realized how much I have developed, not only with my technique, but most importantly with my mental approach. I lost to a young up-and-coming junior. He was good, for sure, but I never felt down in the match. I fought right to the end, believing with each point that I could turn the match around. It wasn't to be. Walking off the court was definitely emotional for me. But it wasn't the negative emotions I felt as a kid; rather than feeling down or mad that I didn't play my best, I was able to enjoy the experience and I felt very satisfied with my effort and performance.
Why did I do this, you may ask. My players feel these emotions every time they play in tournaments. For my 7-12 year olds, who regularly play in tournaments, I want to instill the lessons I've learnt from my playing experience to them. There is nothing more pleasing than watching young juniors whom I've been working with compete right to the end, even if they lose. It's those fighting qualities, that determination, that will carry them off the court, back onto the practice court, and into their next tournaments. Tennis is a physically-demanding sport, but it's the mental side of the game that will take you to the highest level.
With that in mind, we spent last week preparing our kids for a tournament this past weekend. Our focus was not so much on forehands and backhands, but rather the mental approach they have entering the tournament and the right attitude to carry them through the tournament. The best way for our juniors to achieve the goals they set for themselves is to believe and stay positive (and work their tails off!).
Our 11 players did extremely well in the tournament. They improved physically and mentally. Both Kel and I are so proud...or dare I say, emotional!
Matt's Point (get it? Match Point!) is Matt's blog covering all the goings-on at IJP Tennis.