On the tennis court and in life, there is adversity. For the first time in 11 years of coaching at the collegiate level, my team is in the midst of a losing season. We have lost our last four matches. My players have fought hard and given their best effort but it hasn't translated into victories. Injuries and close losses have chipped away the confidence of our team. It is easy to write about winning and winners. We love feel-good stories and happy endings. Today, I want to write about losing and how I am dealing with this challenge.
Focus on the positive.
When things are not going your way, it is easy to get negative and see what's wrong instead of what's right. I am constantly looking for anything positive to build on, such as effort, attitude, focus and the energy of my players. Even when my student athletes have lost a match, it is my job to highlight what they have done well.
Surround yourself with people who love and believe in you
You will be surprised to know that there are people who want to see you fail for many reasons. Some of them are your opponents, some are just envious and some don't even know why they root against you. These are the times I hold on to my family, friends and mentors. Their selfless love and support is a pillar of strength for me.
Set small goals, achieve them and build on it
When things are not going your way, it is natural to press and try harder. Wanting to win becomes an obsession. This is the time you have to let go and have mini goals that lead to the main aspiration. This week, we have got our players to go back and hammer the basics, such as preparing properly for ground strokes, staying low to the ground to use the kinetic chain and keeping the head still for balance.
Think, talk, walk and act like a winner
The natural reaction after a tough loss is to hang your head and drown your sorrows in a pity party. It is ok to be disappointed for a while but snap out of it real fast. And the best way to do this is to be aware of your posture and self talk. Walk with your shoulders up and keep reminding yourself that you are good. In other words, fake it till you make it.
Keep things in perspective
Losing a tennis match does not define who I am. How I deal with losing will tell a lot more about my character. Last week, I planned a trip for my team to go and visit young kids in a hospital. I wanted them to know that their suffering was nothing compared to that of these children facing a life and death situation. It is not ok to equate winning with self worth. Striving to win is bigger than winning itself.
Just look around and you will derive inspiration from people from all walks of life who are dealing with losses and adversities. A couple of years ago an up and coming tennis player from Miami lost a record 21 first-round matches on the ATP tour. Vince Spadea was on the verge of being in the top-20 and just like that he was out of the rankings. It was his ability to laugh at himself that enabled him to relax, recharge and come back stronger than ever.
My team and I will too.