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.