I’ve just watched the National Father and Son Tennis Championship at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club where one of the top-ranked teams went on to win the Championship. It was Peter Smith, tennis coach at USC and one of the best college coaches ever… as proven by his many NCAA team titles… and his 15 year-old son Colter who came away with this year’s title.
Yesterday Coach Smith and Colter took on a challenging team in the semi-finals. It was a close match with the Smiths squeaking through to win it. Pete Smith is dearly loved by the people at the Beach and Tennis Club as they have watch him play this event with each of his three sons through the years and now has won with each. He always presents himself in a dignified manner, playing intensely, focused, yet displaying good sportsmanship at all times. Unfortunately, young Colter has not mastered that skill as yet.
What causes a young player like Colter to yell and scream at himself, his racket or whatever when he misses a shot? Has the desire to win overtaken young athletes to the point where they display disruptive and alarming behavior on the court, football field, or basketball court? When they berate themselves, what are they doing? Certainly it is wonderful to see intensity and desire, but do they know what they are doing when they attack themselves for not performing to the standards their egos have set?
To be mad at yourself for your efforts and shortcomings is just stupid. That same energy aroused with anger can be used much more effectively when it is supportive of the efforts made by the body. The body that runs around a tennis court, or football field, or any other sports arena is made up of millions of cells all trying their best to perform at their best. They need to be appreciated and encouraged, not brow-beaten by the person who is living within them. Sometimes feet don’t get in the perfect position, sometimes legs lack the energy to chase down a ball, sometimes the mind makes mistakes in its calculations. The body and all of its parts works as a team and it needs to be appreciated.
Several years ago I wrote a wonderful little tennis book, actually one that is appropriate for any sport. It’s called EIGHT GOLDEN RULES FOR HOW TO PLAY YOUR BEST TENNIS. The kind Coach Smith even wrote a glowing review for it. It offers several points, like the one above, that might help young athletes have a better understanding of the role their bodies play in their quest for winning. It offers a different attitude and a different way of looking at things to allow the athlete to perform at his or her best. It is a book that every young athlete would do well to read.
Maybe I need to send a copy to Colter.