Back to Old Habits

The sport I decided to participate in was tennis. I began playing tennis at the age of four, when my parents would put me in the group clinics at the local country club. At the age of ten, I decided I wanted to pursue tennis as a career and become a professional tennis player. From that point on, I ate, slept, and dreamt about tennis. I would play tennis 4-5 hours everyday of the week, except Sundays to rest. I traveled all over the country playing high-level tournaments. I eventually decided to pursue a different path than being an athlete, but I still got recruited and signed a letter of intent to play for the UCSD NCAA men’s Tennis team. I played all of my freshman year, but unfortunately I got a horrible shoulder injury over summer and ended up taking a break from the team this year.

Since tennis is an individual sport, whenever I competed, all the pressure was on me and only me. This puts A LOT of pressure on tennis players and can result in anger/mental tantrums. When I played competitively in the juniors, I would get extremely frustrated whenever I was playing poorly and I would let my anger out by throwing my racket. To non-tennis players, this is seen as a very childish act. However, even the most renowned tennis players who are very mentally experienced get VERY frustrated when they do poorly. These past few weeks I went out several times to the Muir College tennis courts to play with a friend who was around my level, but a little lower. Going in, I told myself I would try something new and try to hold back my anger since we were just playing for fun. The first day we went out and hit around, I had very low expectations for myself since I hadn’t played seriously since summertime. We started playing and I was surprised at how well I was playing. Every time I hit my forehand and backhand it felt very smooth and natural. My shoulder had no pain and I ended up killing my friend 6-2, 6-1. While I was playing I felt so relaxed and happy to be back out on the court. After a few more times of playing, I started noticing that my shoulder pain was coming back and I started performing worse and worse. Besides my shoulder pains, my expectations for my performance got higher the more we played and I began to get frustrated while I was playing, even though I initially told myself there was no reason to get upset. One of the days we were playing, the wind was a big factor to my level of play. Tennis is all about timing and the wind would mess up my shots by moving the ball in an unorthodox place when I tried hitting it. This got me even more frustrated and I eventually mentally broke down. All of this relates back to the stereotype that people think tennis is an easy sport. My recent practices with tennis have shown me that you have to be a mental rock in order to be successful at this sport

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One Response to Back to Old Habits

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Tennis does seem to be quite an emotional sport. All sports have this component, but it manifests differently in tennis, and your blog helps me to understand why. It sounds as if you need to continue caring for your body as well (particularly that shoulder!). Try listening to what it is trying to tell you, and reacting from a place of care rather than frustration. (Easier said than done, I know.) I hope that this class and this activity can help you to cultivate a changing relationship to tennis that (perhaps) can result in less pain and anger. Based on my own experience as a former college athlete and working with other college athletes, I know it can be very hard transitioning out of that role. (jmaucsd writes about this a bit too.) It took me years to re-cultivate a good relationship with running after so many years of competitive play and body-punishing workouts. I hope that you can have more good than bad days with tennis, and take it easy on your friend. 🙂

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