Don’t give into defeatist thinking

May 23, 2007 | 3 comments

My USTA team had a terrific time last weekend in Spokane for the regional tennis tournament we had advanced to this spring.

We placed second with scores of 4-1, 1-4, 4-1, and had hoped for better, but considering the stiff competition we were up against, and the experience we have yet to gain, we did very well, and were happy about it.

As usual, there were spiritual lessons to learn.

At the beginning of my first singles match, I was completely overpowered by my opponent. His serve came at me with Any Roddick proportions (probably an exaggeration…but felt like it!). I could not return his serve for the life of me.

I’d position my racket to block it back. The ball would hit my strings, and PING, off into outer space it flew. Everytime! I was getting so distressed about winning even a single game against him that my hope was rapidly sinking into despair and despondency.

But I knew better than to let my attitude go negative! I prayerfully struggled for a perspective that did not accept defeat as inevitable.

I remembered that the final score did not matter. My purpose in playing tennis was not to beat opponents, but to become a better person. I play to learn mental discipline, to more effectively conquer errors, and yes, to defeat defeatist thinking!

Defeat, in this case, would not be a matter of winning few points, but of letting my thought feel defeated regardless of the final tally. It was the feeling I walked off the court with at the end of the match that determined whether I was a victor or not. Not any ultimate score.

With God’s help, all things are possible, I declared.

It took some vigorous mental shaking up to snap my attitude out of giving up.

To find a way to counteract this guy’s play, I dug in my mental heels with the truth that, with God’s help, I could improve my performance, get his hits back and score a few points.

The first set score was dismal, 1-6, I believe. The second set started just as poorly. Down 1-4, I finally reached a spiritually high enough state of thought that I wasn’t feeling defeated inside anymore. I put the score out of mind and concentrated on playing my very best in the moment. I would not be intimidated, I decided.

I finally figured out how to return his serve and counter his strategy when I was serving. I came back all the way to 6-6. Yea! A huge accomplishment for me! I lost in the tie-break for the set, but I walked off the court victorious. I had conquered the defeatist thinking, made progressive strides in my playing, maintained a positive attitude, and come back with an impressive showing.

The score did not matter. My opponent simply was a better player than I was, and he deserved to win. But I had grown spiritually. I had become a better person. My thinking was vastly improved from when I began the match. And for that spiritual growth, in this case, of not giving into feeling crushed by a stronger player, I was grateful.

Every match offers a unique spiritual lesson to learn, and I eagerly look for that lesson each time.

Playing tennis for me is not about accumulating trophies, but about becoming more spiritually minded.

We had a great time. We really did.

3 thoughts on “Don’t give into defeatist thinking”

  1. Evan,
    I should have checked in here before sending you my email…….boy have I been getting into some defeatist thinking……bless you for sharing the highs and lows of your journey. It is blessing others and helping them be better people too.

  2. Evan, I am so glad you spent some time on the winning/losing aspect of your sport. I recently “retired” from competitive yacht racing after 40 yrs due to the fact I was treating the winning aspect of the sport as another god. It’s a long story and I won’t bore your readers with the details (I have been asked to submit it to so you can catch the details there). What was key for me is this healing lead me to become a practitioner. The central aspect of this healing was, in sports, or anything else we are demonstrating, Mind is the performer always and we (man) are the performance. There is “no us or them” ie. opponent. This kind of thinking frees us up to express ease, joy and freedom to tackle any task before us. Winning and losing doesn’t even enter into this, it’s the expression that counts. I have to admit, even though “retired”, I had to “test the waters” and recently entered a regatta. After getting a beat-down in the first three races and admittedly not practicing the above comments very well, the last race was done with prayer to express more of God’s reflection on the course. Sure enough, we sailed a perfect race and finished ahead of some great sailor’s including a Silver Medalist in the Olympics. The key is to work out from God’s point of view and just let go! Thanks again for your blog!!!!! Tick Ticknor CS

  3. Hi Tick,

    Right on! Great work… Thanks for sharing your comments and experiences. With such a premium on “winning” in our society, it’s necessary that we get the right perspective to preserve sanity of mind and peace in life. Winning is not a material accomplishment, but a spiritual grace.

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.