Wawasee Tennis

A Challenge For Success

My first real experience in tennis was in 1988 on a junior high school tennis court in Manchester Indiana.  A group of locals including some of my friends got together that summer before my freshmen year of high school to play tennis.  We played almost every night.  I distinctly remember pulling up in the parking lot, hearing the mechanical drone of the lights, the buzzing of insects, the rattle of fences and the thud of impact from rubber ball on strings.

Sometimes we played with tennis balls well past their prime.  We had cheap racquets from old garages.  The nets were worn with holes, but the courts were filled by us.

I don’t know what or who really started this all.  I’m not sure why we showed up each night at first.  But before long, it became a part of our existence, our daily routine.

The group that played there never had lessons or any kind of formal training.  The only thing we had in common is that we played hard and had the desire to beat one another.  We all wanted to be the best.

Manchester in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s had an elite tennis program.  Many members of the high school team were formally trained at clubs.  A few in the group I played with referred to them as “formals.”  From the outside looking in, making the varsity team seemed to be an impossible task. The kids that populated the program never mixed with our group; you never really saw them much on the public courts. They were busy drilling and taking private lessons.

So our group was never really given good odds.  We were up against kids who had precision shots and textbook ground strokes.  But we loved to play and most in our group went out for the high school tennis team in the fall despite the odds.

And a funny thing happened over the next four years. Our ragtag group of players, in a fairly short time, not only competed with the formally trained members of the team, we eventually populated most of the spots in varsity.  In fact, we dominated them.

How did we do this?  We just played.  A lot.  As much as we could.  We strived to beat one another, to be the best players we could be.  While the “formals” learned cool new drills for $20 an hour (back then), we were busy playing…competing…winning.

Later on in high school, many of us finally made our way to the racquet clubs and refined our play through our coaches.  We played with fresh cans of balls, upgraded our racquets, learned those fancy drills and finally became what my friend called “formals.”  But the difference with us remained…we won more, we competed at a higher level, often beating opponents who, on the surface, appeared to be much better players.

One should never underestimate the power of dedication.  Never underestimate the will to win. And never ever fear failure.  Because learning from failure is the foundation for success.

I learned everything about tennis from failing in the competitions out on those junior-high courts each night. I ultimately learned how to win. As I’ve stated before, I don’t remember how it all began.  It most likely started from a simple challenge.

So I extend a challenge to my student-athletes.  If tennis is something you love and want to achieve success in, then commit to being the best you can be at it. This can also be applied toward anything you love in life.

Here’s a plan for success that I’ve found works well:

  1. Set personal goals for success.  How good do you want to become?  What achievements do you want to accomplish?
  2. Focus. On achieving your goals.  This takes sacrifice and support. Talk with those important people around you (family, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends) so they understand what you’d like to accomplish and your plans.
  3. Work hard.  Nothing important and lasting has ever been accomplished without it.
  4. Never fear failure.  Do not get discouraged by setbacks.  Success doesn’t have to have a timeline.
  5. Never give up.  You only have one life to achieve your dreams.  No regrets!

Once you’ve found success, you’ll discover that you can apply the above plan toward other things you want to accomplish in life. And with a dedicated effort, you’ll be able to achieve great things.

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