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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Don't oversell the idea of being "so competitive"

"I'm a very competitive person", the tennis player said, worn like a badge of accomplishment as if sewn to the shirt of a cub scout. The truth is that we are all competitive to a certain degree. Some are more so than others. But simply being the person who will race with another over the consumption of a peanut butter sandwich does not make them a better competitor than anyone else. No, someone who likes to compete should understand the value of preparedness and patience as well as understanding when, or not, scored competition is necessary to achieve their goals.
      In a recent interview heard on the Tennis Psychology Podcast with Dr. Patrick Cohn, he asked a question of his guest, Joe Doniffer, author of 16 books, founder of the company OnCourt/Offcourt, and both a PTR and USPTA master professional. The question focused on the kind of player who does not get motivated by practice but by competition alone. Mr. Doniffer shared that typically, but not always, this type of person has stroke and technique limitations, and their ability to improve is compromised by their mentality which is "let's just play."
      We all have our own reasons or motivations for playing tennis. For some, it may be winning points. For others, it might be getting a good workout. And yet for many it could be a stress release from a hard day at work. But for those who look down on others who choose, for whatever reason, to not play for a score, may I suggest that you be true to yourself and let others be themselves. I personally do not need a scoreboard to motivate my efforts on a court. Every hit of the ball might as well be match point at Wimbledon. No one is harder on me than me, and I believe there are lots of people out there who feel the same. And I would need to laugh at anyone who thinks that it is only being "so competitive" that makes one tough and motivated. You've obviously never seen me off the tennis court in the real world. USTA rankings or game and set score may mean the world to some, but to others, these are no more than numbers on a page just like the years on a calendar which make people pre-judge other far too frequently.
      Remember that you win some and you lose some. As Kenny Rogers said in song, you've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them. When practicing and playing for enjoyment, hold your own as best you can using every ounce of what you know and have worked on. When competing, be aware of your limitations and learn from them as they become more obvious against a better player. And sometimes the effort may just not be worth it with the wrong opponent who only brings you down, regardless of the score. 
      Competitive, by definition, is "as good as or better than others of a comparable nature." I suppose that makes me competitive. How about you?

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