I recently watched an interview with tennis player
Andre Agassi. He admitted that he hated tennis
his whole career.
His father forced him to play tennis as a child even
though he longed to play a team sport.
During the first ten years of his career he had
many ups and downs. He went from being #1
player at one point to sinking so low he had
to spend several months playing in the equivalent
of the minor leagues in tennis.
He was finally able to rise again and play
at a consistent level after he had an epiphany…
He realized he did have a team – his new prep school
for disadvantaged children in Law Vegas.
From the point on, he knew that every swing of the
tennis racket was a swing for his school.
Every victory was a victory for his school.
This motivated him like nothing before ever did.
Andre’s goal wasn’t to be the #1 player (that was
always his father’s goal for him) but to win all
four Grand Slam tournaments.
The French Open was the one that alluded him.
Finally, in 1999, 13 years after turning pro, he
won this title.
Here’s what you can learn from this:
* Find a “team” to play for. It can be your family,
a charity, your church, etc. Your achievements
will have more meaning and it will be easier to
stick to your goals if you have such a team.
* Set your own goals – don’t become trapped
by the expectations of others.
* It’s never too late. In Andre’s case, many
players aren’t still playing 13 years into their
career. If they are, they often aren’t in peak
condition and winning Grand Slams. If a
particular goal has alluded you, you don’t have
to give up.
In addition to having a team to play for, you also
need a team of people to help you.
A mentor/coach and a few close friends and
colleagues who will guide and advise you along
the way.
Books and workshops are useful tools too.

Watching three of my daughters play tennis this summer has reminded me of a book I read earlier this year: Open: An Autobiography, by retired tennis star Andre Agassi.

Andre begins by pointing out that the terminology in tennis is the language of life, which is something I had never noticed before and is unique to tennis:

It’s no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature…

Points become games become sets become tournaments… It reminds me of the way seconds become minutes become hours and any hour can be our finest.”

I now think of that every time I say something like, “do you want to work on your serve today?” Such phrases have double meaning now.

Andre admits in this book that he hated tennis with a passion even though he was so good at it.

His father forced him to play tennis as a child even though he longed to play a team sport.

He went from being the #1 player (which was his father’s goal for him) to sinking so low he had to spend several months playing in the equivalent of the minor leagues in tennis.

He was finally able to rise again and play at a consistent level after he had an epiphany…

He realized he did have a team after all – his new prep school for disadvantaged children in Las Vegas.

This motivated him like nothing before ever did.

And he finally focused on his own goal – winning all 4 Grand Slams. He won the French Open in 1999, 13 years after turning pro (many pros retire before the 13 year mark).

As a “tennis mom” this book is a good cautionary tale. Sports are best when viewed in this “life as miniature” way.  By doing so, I hope my girls will lose fewer “break points” in the real word, have more “Advantage, Miss Ashland” scenarios and always have an awareness of which team they are on.

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