I was playing in a grueling doubles tennis match on an uncomfortably warm May afternoon my junior year of high school, in a contest with our cross-town rival. My doubles partner and I grudgingly dropped the first set, rallied back to take the second set, and were armpits deep in the deciding third set. The set score became six games each, which in the Michigan high-school tennis world means – tiebreaker.
My partner and I quickly found ourselves on the losing side of the scorecard in the race-to-seven-win-by-two-points tiebreaker. By this time the rest of the afternoon’s matches had already finished—the entire crowds eyes added weight to our already exhausted psyches—as we battled on the court with the tiebreak score now reading 1-6; we were a mere point away from losing the tiebreaker, match, and city bragging rights.
Then, something happened. The tide might’ve turned, the moon could’ve shifted, the wind probably blew in a more favorable direction…at the time I didn’t really know how we ended up changing the course of the tiebreak. But in retrospect, it was simple. We just tried harder. We dug a little deeper.
Running an extra lap at the end of a workout, being a bit more patient, putting a little more of the soul into work, jumping a little bit higher, studying an extra 10 pages of a textbook, running down a tennis ball that seems just out of reach. These are things I believe in doing. I believe in digging a little bit deeper.
Unfortunately for me, digging a little bit deeper is often one of the hardest things to do. After all, why bother spending more time and effort than is necessary to do something? It is more efficient to shirk nonessential pursuits, especially if the big picture is unaffected by it. I’ll be the first to admit that there is a warm, gooey comfort that comes with lethargy.
On some levels it is illogical, but I have a strong conviction to try my hardest anyway. Digging deeper is how I grow. That little extra oomph adds up. Eventually my serve is a little more accurate, or I’m a little bit better at solving calculus equations because I’ve dug deeper all along. I’ve found not only that hard work pays off, but that extra effort pays off even more. Giving 100 percent is the key to reaching potential, digging a little deeper seems to be the key to raising it.
That May afternoon, down a landslide in a third-set tiebreak, my doubles partner and I had to dig a little deeper to win a tennis match. We dug, and we did win. It remains the most character shaping match I’ve ever played, and the pinnacle of my short athletic career. Former President Calvin Coolidge said that persistence is what solves humanity’s problems and I wholeheartedly agree. Digging deeper has never let me down, and I don’t think it ever will.
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