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Fri, Oct. 18

Column: A winning attitude isn't for losers

It's fairly easy to be a good winner, but when you've put your blood, sweat, and tears in a competitive endeavor and you lose, you can become awash in emotion.Did you watch Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the Rogers Cup in Montreal this past weekend? Djokovic won in a third set tie-break, which was definitely an upset.As the two players walked up to the net, it looked as if it took everything in Roger Federer's power to shake hands and go sit down while Djokovic enjoyed his special moment as the winner.If the tables had been flipped, would Novak have been as mentally distressed? Probably not since he was the under-dog, but both these players are used to giving maximum effort, while showing respect for one another and the officials.What's the first thing you're asked when you come off the court after a match? "Hey, how'd you do?" If you won the answer is easy, but if you lost the words seem to jumble and you want to give more of an explanation, maybe even a few excuses come to mind.Learning to cope with winning and losing is a journey and emotions vary depending on who you're playing, how tight the match was, what your expectations were, the training you put in, fair play, good sportsmanship, and other variables.Here are a few things to remember when you decide to participate in competitive events.• Winning or losing has nothing to do with who you are as a person, although it can certainly help you learn to deal with stress in a positive way if you train yourself correctly.• Being a good loser isn't a natural trait. It is a learned skill and it is part of life.• Know going into a tennis tournament that your chances of winning the whole thing will be tough unless you're the number one seed. Your goal is to be realistic, to try your best, play by the rules, and mainly have fun. The chips will fall where they fall, and even then sometimes we don't have total control of the outcome.You may run into a little bad luck with some net cords on crucial points, a pulled muscle, a broken racquet, nerves, or an opponent that gives you a questionable call you can't seem to shake. Smile, be friendly and enjoy yourself within the parameters of the event.• Set realistic goals for the amount of time, effort, ability, conditioning and level you're playing.• At the end of the match, win or lose, make sure you are cordial and even complimentary with your opponent. Don't whine and make excuses. And believe me, this can be really hard at times, especially if you were expected to win but lost.• There is no perfect. Some days are better than others. The more time and effort you put in correctly, the fewer "off" days you'll have.• Before you throw that racquet, say something ugly or unkindly question your opponent because you're frustrated, remember it's a game that you're supposed to enjoy. If you need an umpire and it's a sanctioned tournament, get one. But if you need to learn how to control your emotions under pressure, make a note of it and start working on your patience NOW!• Some key thoughts: Don't compare yourself to others; be positive; encourage; be tolerant; focus and work on the weak aspects of your performance; respect yourself and others; give higher priority to enjoyment and to skill mastery than to winning; employ fair tactics and sportsmanship; know that winning teaches a kind of strength, but so does losing.Remember that positive thoughts yield positive results and a winning attitude. And lastly, the "doing" is the real reward of any contest.(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at
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