Yesterday marked the last match of the JV tennis season here.
The match was comprised of two diametrically opposed lessons within the span of an hour. First, the match was rough because it was the first time we’d suffered a match loss in well over a month. The other team was very talented from top to bottom.
One of my doubles teams faced off against a foe that had them down early 5-2. The first team to eight wins. During the changeover, I talked to them and the strategy portion comprised of one question, “what’s really the score?” While it was evident that it was 5-2, I witnessed what seemed to be a change in their posture after the last game. Their momentum shifted and it was clear my two players weren’t leaving the court without the victory. What’s more important is they realized they weren’t leaving the court without the win.
Saying you’re going to do something doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that the other team might have had something to say about this. Nonetheless, they went over to their side and when we talked again, it was 7-7 and headed to a tiebreaker. They left the court as winners and couldn’t stop talking about how they willed themselves, down by a lot, to pull through and win.
The thing about sports at the non-varsity level is that the games really only matter to the parents, the people playing and maybe the coach. That’s it. Those memories don’t make it in any print newspaper and the results are quickly forgotten in favor of more significant memories. But it’s those moments which can change everything.
On the flip side, one of my best players found herself in a rare JV singles match against a young woman who was at her level. The two of them battled, but it wasn’t close at first. My player led 5-0 and then eventually 6-1. I was sure she had it firmly in hand, but it turned out those last two games were the hardest to get. She eventually lost in a tiebreaker.
The more significant of these examples in my mind, was the latter one. Having something in your clutches and then losing it, can sear an imprint in your mind that you don’t easily get rid of. It can shape your approach going forward and for the great ones, make you work harder in practice because you understand that every moment you spend preparing will make those types of experiences better.
So while it would have been nice to end the year with a win, it felt good to end with a loss in a strange way. In a competitive environment where there are no championships and no real closure, all you have is the desire and will to get better. To reflect on the experiences as they happened and determine what you’re going to do about them, which is a lesson that extends well beyond the tennis court.