This I Believe

Joseph - Scottsville, Virginia
Entered on March 6, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in Tennis, in playing a sport where I don’t rely on anyone but myself. Playing a sport with no teammates takes pressure off of you because you don’t have to worry about letting anyone down but yourself. In tennis you can play well and lose, but because you don’t have to worry about letting others down you can feel good about the way you played. However, letting down yourself can sometimes feel worse than letting down your teammates. When I play tennis I’m a different person, I’m either more focused on my game or I’m lethargic and irritable.

When I first started playing tennis, sometimes I would shoot a ball right into the bottom of the net and become a lazy and irritable tennis player not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t help it. I asked myself “why did you hit the ball into the net”, but I didn’t stop to think that I’m only human and that I make mistakes. Then, instead of focusing on the upcoming point, I would replay what I did wrong on the previous point in my head. From there I sort of went into a downward spiral of self hatred and eventually game, set, and match. I would walk off the court with my head hanging down and proceed to be bitter towards everyone for at least two hours, because I just couldn’t understand how I could have self destructed so horribly.

After the tennis season of my tenth grade year I decided that in order to be able to devote myself to tennis I would have to rid myself of this horrible habit. I asked a guy named Raphael Strumlauf who I’d seen play at the local park if he wanted to coach me over the summer. He said yes. In our first lesson he taught me more about tennis then I had ever learned before. We continued our lessons throughout the summer and as the weeks went on, I got better and better. My forehand started landing deep in the court with considerable force on it, my backhand speed increased, and my serve turned into a weapon. I learned some new strokes and improved on the ones I already had, but where I improved the most was my mental game. My punishment for every negative thing I said was five push ups, some days I had to do as many as 70 push ups. After time it just became a habit for me to not say anything negative and it showed through the improvement in my game.

As this school year rolled around I was psyched for some tennis with my friend, but I never would have imagined that after battling my tennis negativity I would be receiving my best grades ever and have a renewed confidence. I believe that if I had never devoted myself to the mentally taxing sport of tennis, I would not be the person that I’ am today.