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Tennis is a Symbolic Fight

Tennis is a symbolic fight between two people.  Unlike boxing where you can physically feel each blow being delivered to your face, the aggression in tennis is more subtle, yet equally as brutal.  You certainly don't feel physical pain from winners screaming by you, but you feel the emotional tension building inside your skin. The emotional "body blows" delivered point after point is mentally exhausting.  If tennis is so fun, why do we torture ourselves to such emotional stress and agony?

Humans are social creatures.  We are genetically wired to compare ourselves to other people.  Everyone wants to be the big man on campus.  Tennis is one way to establish dominance in the human kingdom.  There are many other ways in life to seek approval from others, tennis is no different.  

Think about the rewards that come from winning in tennis.  More fame.  Likeability increases exponentially. Girls give you more attention (despite your ugly looks).  More sex.  Money and potentially lots of money if you strike it big.  Bigger house.  Nicer car.  Tennis is one way to stake your claim and prove you are superior to other human beings.  It might seem silly to someone who doesn't play sports, but one could make the case it is no different than a woman putting on makeup in the morning, dressing well to go into the office...they want to look better than other women.  Or the financier sitting behind a giant mahogany desk on the 117th floor of a skyscraper scheming how to swallow another company.  People are driven to be the best, especially relative to others around them. Human beings can't help themselves, we are selfish and competitive.  

Tennis is a symbolic fight.  Many coaches and players get caught up in the perfect technique, eating habits, fitness routines, strategies, gimmicks- all parts to the puzzle in helping you become proficient. However, the most important thing is your ability to compete with what you got TODAY.  To see what is needed to get inside your opponents head.  Lift the fog between you and your opponent, try to see what is going on their side of the court.  Work on their head.  Deliver body blows.  Hit the ball in a way that doesn't hurt you and annoys them.  Then keep pressing that button, over and over again.  See how they respond.  Be willing to engage in this symbolic fight and put a rat inside their kitchen.  Stop focusing on yourself and lift the fog off the court.  Deliver the body blows until you soften them up.  See their legs wobble, their mind start to make poor decisions- then just wait til they fall over.  Let gravity take them down for you- forget delivering the knockout punch.  The work is done.  

Be content with what you have, use what you got.  It's most likely good enough to win right now.  Have fun watching their reactions and let me congratulate you in advance for a job well done.  Game on. 

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Reader Comments (2)

As an old h.s-m.s. tennis coach--some yes and no to article. For many athletes tennis is a fight. But for many students the appeal of tennis is that it is not physical. That they are not in contact. They see tennis as a skill like playing the violin. They enjoy hitting tennis balls but not necessarily beating up on someone. They also see tennis as a sport where size is not so valued. For lots of kids you learn tennis skills first then you compete. You use your tennis skills to compete. For football you compete and learn skills to be better. I also find that I coach with the idea of doing your best and not worrying so much about what your opponent does. I also see coach many Asian and Indian kids and their parents stress learning to get skill and then compete. They see tennis as a skill not as combat.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Waymire

Great stuff Stephen, keep it coming.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCAtennis

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