Measuring the Mental (or a Tale of Three Matches), part III


“Sometimes the brain gets the better of the athlete.”

These words came courtesy of Steve, the head teaching pro at my tennis club, when I debriefed with him after a recent loss. Truth is, I had lost the match before stepping onto the court.

Consider this a cautionary tale.

My opponent on the day in question was Mel, a former 4.0 intent on boosting her rating after an injury caused the USTA to bump her down. During the warm-up (!), I noticed my opponent’s excellent form and skidded toward self-doubt. My stickler saboteur was already at work, telling me that I’d have to play perfect – or at least really excellent tennis – to have a fighting chance!

Unlike the first and second matches I’ve recounted in this three-part series, I was playing singles. I did set an intention (much like I had playing in doubles) to stay positive and have fun. But I quickly lost sight of that goal and things went south pronto. I played tight, nervy tennis and lost the first set 1-6.

It was a warm day – for Northern California – and I noticed that Mel took her sweet time during changeovers. After the first set, I committed to keeping her out there for as long as possible in hopes of making the match more competitive. I definitely had my chances in the second set but I was still playing with a lot of tension. In my frustration, I latched onto the not very helpful thought, “Why do I have to play a much stronger player?”

In the end, Mel and I were out on the court for about two hours, a long time given the score line: 6-1, 6-2. We played some great points.

After the match, I heard from my teammates that I’d played better than the score indicated. I also received some hard but helpful feedback from a friend who said I’d looked angry on court.

I know I allowed my frustration to get the best of me. It wasn’t the first time that I walked away with a lot to look at, a lot to learn. I draw comfort from Steve’s final words to me that day, “You are a work in progress.” I’m already looking forward to seeing how I do and what experience I create for myself my next match.

Where do saboteurs get in your way? If you want to learn how to combat them, please consider joining me on Monday, June 15, when I’ll be discussing “Sidestep Your Saboteurs for Success” at Innate Chiropractic and Wellness Center at 916A San Pablo Avenue (near Solano Avenue) in Albany. The free talk will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Register today at Eventbrite to save your seat!


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