TennisI’ve been watching the US Open this past week and I am always amazed how these athletes, both experienced and not so experienced, are so focused.  How, with being on a world stage watched by millions, they are able to show up and actually perform.  I’m lucky I can focus for ten minutes much less hours on end.  And that is not just mentally but physically as well.

My son played tennis for a number of years and I was a nervous wreck watching him in the stands.  I can only imagine what it was like on the court.  And then multiply that by so much more with these pros and my respect and awe goes to another level. Add to the hours of practice and the dedication it takes to keep going even when you lose and that determination is an inspiration to me.

I recently watched a fifteen year old girl win her first US open match and was so impressed by her demeanor.  She had a quiet maturity within her girlish giggles of sheer surprise and excitement of actually checking off something from her bucket list (if she even has one…I think that happens when you get older and realize that you need or want a bucket list).

Where does that talent, dedication and determination come from at such a young age?  At fifteen I was wondering what outfit I would buy from Casual Corner with my babysitting money.  The thought of being in the US Open to me was like being able to take a shuttle to Mars.

At nineteen the tennis bug finally bit me and I was obsessed with watching every match Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova played.  I’d call in sick from my job so I wouldn’t miss one stroke.  I played everyday and entered a local tennis tournament to see how successful I would be.  I played the top seed in the tournament and never got to feel the thrill of a win. And then I quit competing.

Not having any coaching except from playing with guys  I was completely ill equipped with the knowledge or the skill to compete. I was also too old to even think about doing anything but play for fun.   But I still went out and tried.  I learned something about myself that day.  My nerves and focus were not cut out to compete on the tennis court. I was lost in my life at the time and was grasping at straws.  Anything to make me feel complete.  Luckily I did find my love in the arts and was on my way.  I think sometimes we often wonder if we could have done something but were too afraid to fail.  I realize now that just going out and doing it I knew I needed to move on and find my way in something else.

I have read where great champions have come from the toughest backgrounds and they rise to the occasion and come out a winner.  Novak Djokovic is one of those champions.  He grew up in war torn Serbia  where bombings were a daily occurrence.  He said for three months he and his family would spend the night in the basement because of the bombings.  Djokovic said that the hardships of war drove him to pursue tennis with even greater determination.  He is number one in the world at age 27.  Now that’s focus.

I am finding more and more that I have to follow my gut to tell me when it is time to move on.  To know that I have given it my best shot.   I didn’t win  any tennis tournaments but I have won some of my own personal battles.  It may not have made it on television but they are definitely milestones for me.  I need to keep remembering no matter what age we are that our competition is really with ourselves.  May sound trite at first but let it settle.  For me, that’s the real game.

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