Tennis Fosters Core Values for Success in Life!

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Taking the emphasis off winning and putting it on things that you have 100% control over makes sense in tennis. There are many players who feel like failures because they don’t win as often as they think they should.

One of the reasons for this is that players don’t play enough matches as a part of their training regimen. 

Another, bigger reason is that players have been taught through peers, parents and coaches, that winning is the ultimate goal.

Instead, we need to realize that tennis is an ideal vehicle to teach players many fundamental life lessons: important to creating champions and good human beings alike.  

Below is a list of these core values:

  1. Character: Through the responsibilities each player has to call the lines on their side of the court, to keep score accurately and to give the opponent the benefit of the doubt, tennis offers a great opportunity for players to build character. A player’s character is also notable in the way they keep score or call lines during a drill. Good coaches can be very helpful if they can get the players to realize that their self-worth as a person has nothing to do with how well they strike a little yellow ball.

  2. Courage: Tennis gives players the opportunity to play through tough times. The one-on-one style of competition certainly requires the guts to put it on the line. Few other sports require as much courage from its youngest athletes as does tennis. Another example is when players find it necessary to confront or question someone that is cheating. How many times have we seen players avoid that uncomfortable job, only to wait until the match is over to tell the entire world how their opponent was the biggest cheater on the planet?  Learning to positively deal with those situations will teach skills that will serve those players in their adult life? It’s all how you look at the situation. Some will think this is an awful burden, that no young player should have to endure, while others recognize it as a great opportunity to teach an important life lesson and skill.

  3. Honesty: Tennis is one of the only sports where the players make calls on each other’s shots. Can you imagine a Little League game where the batter calls the balls and strikes? Although this huge responsibility in the hands of immature competitors can and has caused problems, no other sport allows for the development of honesty and integrity like tennis does. Parents and coaches can facilitate the development of this core value if they seek out opportunities to compliment players when the players get it right.

  4. Sportsmanship: Like in other sports, tennis players will play opponents that are jerks and try to cheat. In the short run, this is uncomfortable for players and parents, but it does give young kids the chance to start to develop coping skills with these kinds of people. I know many competitive junior players are mature beyond their peers in this area simply because they have had more chances to practice these skills. Parents should view these episodes as opportunities and resist the urge to get involved and “save” the child.

  5. Integrity: More than any other sport, tennis has the potential for “retaliatory” calls because it allows for your opponent to make calls that directly affect you. There will be times when people get cheated, whether on purpose or by honest mistake. How a player reacts to these times offers the player a chance to test and prove their integrity. Will they get even, or will they do the right thing despite the opponent’s actions? Refusing to retaliate will teach players that they should avoid situational ethics by refusing to get even “because he did it to me first”. Players that succeed in this area can have a profound sense of satisfaction even if they lose the match, but only if a coach or parent is dedicated to looking for and rewarding their successes in this area.

  6. Commitment: Reaching the highest level of tennis requires a great deal of commitment on the player’s part. The lessons of self-discipline and delayed gratification are amazing life lessons. Even within a player’s game they will need to make decisions to try new techniques that may hurt them in the short term, but pay dividends in the long term. Commitment to these new techniques is critical for future tennis success, and teaches a valuable life lesson that players will surely benefit from as adults.

  7. Good Health: The pursuit of excellence in all sports demand a player to strive for a strong healthy and flexible body.  Making healthy choices in diet and exercise will serve a player on and off the court throughout their lives. 

  8. Humility: Through competition and partaking in drill classes, players soon come to realize people do not look upon arrogance very highly. Tennis offers players the chance to learn the difference between arrogance and confidence. Team settings and class settings are the best arenas for players to learn this. Parents and coaches should not shun their responsibility to tell players when they are acting arrogantly.  Eventually the player will glean the difference between arrogance and confidence.

  9. Excellence: I believe the practice court is the best arena to teach players to strive for excellence. Many players find it difficult to practice with the proper level of intensity after a long day at school. These challenges are similar to the ones they will have in college, and ultimately when they enter the workforce and become parents. The ability to work hard when you don’t feel like it is a major life lesson in the area of striving for excellence.  

  10. Fun: For only a select few is sport a profession or even a collegiate endeavor.  For the majority of players it is an act of recreation.  But don't think that doesn't mean much.  This act can not only serve to give a person great joy throughout their life but as noted above it can make them a better person, friend, parent, employer, employee, citizen, human being. Once the sport stops being fun, the sport loses players.  So one of our primary concerns is to make sure our players are having lots of FUN on the courts.  After all, we would hate to have them miss out on the good times and all the great lessons they can learn along the way. 

If we can produce players who strive to excel in these areas and look at tennis as a vehicle to become a better person, then they will have learned valuable life lessons and in the process experience less stress in competition.  Fine tuning these values, will bring greater success on and off the court.  This is because they will no longer view the “win” as the ultimate goal.  Almost every tough loss in tennis can be a victory if the player is tuned into the life lessons that tennis offers.