9 Life Lessons I Learned on the Tennis Court.
How to take these valuable lessons and apply them to daily life.
I started playing tennis a couple of years ago when I finally made the time for it (early in the pandemic). It appears that many others also took up tennis during that time as the sport saw huge growth over the past few years. I have come to love it and it has been a big part of my life and something I look forward to. I played some when I was younger but very sporadically and not with the consistency that I do now.
As I started taking lessons and playing more, I have come to realize that the lessons I learn on the court translate to valuable life lessons. Here are some of these many life lessons.
- You have to let go of control. One of my coaches once told me in a lesson, “loosen your grip on the racket and just let yourself swing with ease”. As I tried this I noticed how much easier and more comfortable it felt. It made me think about how often we try to control things in life that we have no control over. Accepting this and trusting the process can allow us to navigate life with more ease, freedom and peace of mind.
- Failure, setbacks and disappointments are part of the journey. Just as I was getting in a groove and really improving my game and confidence, I broke my ankle in a tennis lesson. I went from playing 2–3 times a week to being immobile in a boot. It was very humbling and I felt defeated and discouraged. I am only now slowly coming back several months later. Not only with injuries but in tennis we face losses, defeat and setbacks even when we put in great effort and dedication. In life, we will face hard times and up and downs. We will get thrown curveballs when we least expect them.
- It is all mental. If you play tennis, you know how much of a mental sport it is. You can practice for hours every day but if you walk onto the court with the mental attitude of “ I can’t” or “I am going to mess up”, you will. How we approach life and situations is greatly impacted by our mindset, attitude and believing that we can do hard things. We have to learn to overcome our doubts and fears that hold us back.
- You have to listen to your body and respect what it needs. You learn in tennis that you have to let your body rest when it signals this. You can’t push through injuries or it will just get worse. Sleep, nutrition and rest days are important to help you function optimally.
- You will have good and bad days and that is ok. When you have a bad day recognize it; allow yourself to feel the uncomfortable feelings but keep going. Don’t wallow in it or see it as something that needs to be “fixed”. If you are having more bad days than usual, pay attention to what is going on and make sure you are addressing it. But we all have occasional bad days and that is ok.
- Nurture friendships and have your friends’ backs like they have yours. The key to successful doubles play is communication, trust and respect. Your partner has your back and you need to have theirs. In life you will find the friends that will be there for you and consistently show up. These friendships are hard to come by. Show respect and nurture these relationships.
- Practice following through. When I focus on following through with my swing, I notice better aim and placement. In life you need to keep moving forward and following through to achieve your goals. You can’t stop midway and you can’t give up. You need to follow through with what you set your mind on. You can’t let others or yourself define your abilities or tell you, “you can’t”. You will fall; but when you do, get right back up, try again and follow through.
- Keep your eye on the ball. Yup. This is is so important in tennis. When you take your eye off the ball, even momentarily, you don’t get the chance to make a good shot. In life if we focus on what is important to us and prioritize those areas, we will see growth.
- It all starts with love, kindness and patience. Tennis takes a lot of patience and being kind to yourself and others. How different would it be if we showed ourselves kindness, love and self-compassion every day?
I know there are more lessons I have learned on the court and have translated to life but these are the few that consistently come up. I am still early in my game but I hope to be able to keep showing up in life and on the court and getting back up in the face of setbacks and “failures”. Tennis has been great and has helped me with discipline, resilience, dedication and friendships.