Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Play your own game

Nico had his first tennis tournament last weekend. He did pretty well: won 2 out of 3 matches, and was winning the 3rd 5-1 before loosing in the tie-breaker. One of the other parents gave some advice to his daughter that I thought was spot on. He told her to just focus on the ball & the court, and forget that she was playing in a tournament. Easier said than done, but wise nevertheless. We often get distracted or defocused when we think too much. Our "flow"goes away. I believe that is what happened to Nico in the match he lost. A sailing analogy comes to mind: when approaching the upwind mark (on the layline) you sometimes find yourself a bit short of the mark. If you miss it you need to make two costly extra tacks. Yet if you focus too much on sailing to the mark you often sail sub-optimally and miss it. A much better approach is to ignore the mark - to remove it from your vision - and just sail as high and fast as you can. When you get close enough to the mark you'll know if you made it, and you maximized your chances by sailing at your best. Paco mentioned he feels the same way when playing soccer...

Of course, some people thrive in pressure and play extra well in competition. I guess you need to know yourself... Also, some moments are truly game changing (the point to break the serve, the crossing before the mark, the penalty kick to break the tie) so winning them is key. Some people can best do that by focusing on what is at stake - while others are better off ignoring the pressure and just playing their own game.

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