I’ve always been a confident person. I’ve been blessed to have people in my life who believe in me, so I’ve always believed in myself and had faith in my abilities and talents to get me where I want to go. One person in particular validated this belief in self-confidence more than 10 years ago, during a high school tennis match when I was 15.
My first year on the team was what you’d expect a first year to be: a learning experience. I won some and lost some—but mostly lost some. It was during one defeat my coach gave me advice so great yet so simple, I remember that moment clearly to this day.
We were playing the number one team in the division. We were seven of eight. That match my strokes were off; nearly every shot I made slammed into the net or flew out of bounds. My serves were so erratic I had to play it safe just to get them in. It would have been easy for anyone to whoop me, but my opponent made me look laughable. I lost the first set 0-6.
Between sets I walked, head down, to my coach. I said, pleadingly, “What am I doing wrong?”
This is what he said: “You know how to play tennis. Just get into position, swing, and follow through.”
What?!?, I thought to myself. Yeah, I knew how to play tennis, but . . . so? What kind of advice was that? I wanted some great wisdom, some magic formula to power the ball over the net, just in bounds yet barely out of reach. I wanted Agassi shots. I wanted to be more than in the game—I wanted to control it.
But in those brief moments before the next match, his advice sunk in. I could control the game. I knew how to play; I’d been taught well, but I wasn’t using my skills, or even my head, for that matter. It was true: All I had to do was get into position, swing, and follow through.
I’d like to say I ended up winning the match, but I didn’t. I still got buried, but I like to think with a little more dignity. I started playing the way I knew how. I even won a few games in the second set. I left feeling like a tennis player, not a little kid helplessly flailing a racket at the mercy of the Big Kids. I had gained an element of control not just over the game, but over myself.
Like all great allegories, my coach’s advice holds true in so many situations. It has become one of my greatest motivators: I believe that I already have all I need to be successful. To reach a desired outcome, whatever it may be, I just have to prepare myself, take action, and see it through to the end: “Just get into position, swing, and follow through.”
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