Playing for something bigger than yourself.
Tennis can be the most self-indulgent sport around. The one on one nature we all love to boast about, sometimes has an ugly side effect.
That side effect could be called our selfish side or critical side or probably better it just be called our ‘ego’.
This is the constant narrative of why you should win, why you shouldn’t win, why you’re the best, why you’re the worst, why you deserve to be playing higher, why you need to be playing lower, whose fault it is that you’re losing and what and who is it that is holding you back blah blah blah……
“As long as the ego runs your life, most of your thoughts, emotions, and actions arise from desire and fear.“Eckhart Tolle
Personally, I am the first to admit that I have dealt with an unlimited amount of these above narratives over and over again while playing tennis. I have got a lot better at dealing with it now but it’s still there, just below the surface.
The highs and the lows. The “I am so fricken good at this game” through to the all too common “I actually don’t even want to play this stupid sport anymore”. I have had moments when I have counted my trophies but times where I have smashed a tree to bits with my racket after a loss. More than once.
But from what I have personally experienced and through observations in other high level sportspeople is that there are opportunities that come along which can help take you out this self indulged rut or at least give you a BETTER narrative to keep telling yourself.
To be playing for something bigger than yourself.
This could be playing for a local team who you truly commit to do your bit, try your best and help your team mates. The great teams all sacrifice their own personal achievement for the betterment of the club team, rep team and certainly state or national team. The events like the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics offer powerful ways to play for something bigger than yourself.
The playing for something bigger than yourself doesn’t just stop at your team mates, your club or your country. You may get a new perspective if you settle down with a partner or even more so when you first become a parent. Some of you may be inspired by your version of God to be your best self. A sadder story may be losing something or someone you love that shifts your perspective and re-engineers how you motivate yourself to bring your ALL to every game.
Tennis has club pennants and representative teams going right through to Federation Cup, Davis Cup and the Commonwealth and Olympic games. We know the power of playing for the ‘Green and Gold’ and we have seen our players dig that bit deeper than we (and probably they) thought was possible.
Recently we have seen the introduction of the classy Laver Cup, which honours the past players and offers a Europe vs the world concept. This is fantastic for the game and almost feels like a tennis version of golf’s Ryder Cup. In 2020 we have also seen a successful ATP Cup launch with the fast paced, multi location teams event providing the energy of a FIFA World Cup event bringing the best out of the players as well as dragging patriotic fans to the tennis.
Topically, the bush fires in Australia has caused so much devastation. Leading a new type of charitable act was Nick Kyrgios who kick started a string of players and tennis legends donating money for every aces hit, money for every set won and even offers to donate prize money won at the tournament. This is all brilliant stuff by all the players to contribute in a way that they can best demonstrate whilst helping achieve further public awareness and support for the bush fire efforts.
Nick is a highly strung fight or flight type. His ‘flights’ put the game in disrepute and as a tennis coach, I would just love it if he could be more of a role model to the young, impressionable, tennis youth. His game is huge and so is his flamboyance. On the other side of his ‘flight’ tanks and impulsive arguments, his ‘fight’ can be really, crazy, good.
Over the last few months, Nick has strongly represented Australia at the Davis Cup, Australia at the ATP Cup and at the tail end of this has altruistically called himself into action donating money for every ace he hits in the tournament. Has Nick finally found something bigger than himself to help bring his best?
Now as I write this, Nick has just got into the 3rd round of the Australian Open. He could easily lose next round and just as easily argue with the umpire and crack his racquet in half. His emotions are still at a huge risk of losing control BUT there is no doubt in my mind that he has learnt that playing for something bigger than himself gives him more reason to bring his best to the court.
What are other ways we can get our tennis players, young and old playing for something bigger than themselves ?