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Wed, Oct. 16

Column: No excuses for tennis excuses

We all do it at one time or another, some of us more than others. Warranted or unwarranted it normally doesn't sit well in conversation. The player that just won the match and is feeling good with their current victory certainly doesn't want to hear anything from their opponent except maybe, "That was a great couple sets you just played." And it takes a "big person" to just leave it at that while you're licking your wounds. Just ask Roger Federer.Unfortunately nine out of 10 times the loser in the game of tennis goes into the Twilight Zone of Excuse Making 101. And if they work really hard at it, their opponent might even give them a couple sentences of empathy.It may sound something like this, "Man has my arm been bothering me lately, really affecting my serve, but ... you really played well." A backhanded compliment at the least.Now if you read between the lines, your opponent just said, "I would have won easily if I was completely healthy."If you're quick-witted you might have added, "I know how you feel, I'm just getting over tennis elbow and the flu and wasn't sure I'd make it through a whole match. Maybe we can play again when we're both feeling better." Now you've won the match and are back on even keel with the excuse-maker.Excuses are words we use to avoid dealing with unpleasant truths, like losing matches in tennis.It may make us feel a little better as we slink off, but who's kidding who? The normal reality of the matter is they were better than us due to skill, conditioning, strategy, mental toughness and maybe a little luck here and there. (Is that an excuse I just made?)Have you ever found yourself making excuses even before you played a match or before it's over? In your own mind, you're trying to find an early out, just in case you do lose and then you're covered."Gosh, did you know I have to play the number one seed?""Heard he's won a couple national titles.""They just don't have normal strokes.""I couldn't get into it.""Did you see all of those bad calls?"The list is endless of what we can conjure when we want to.Did you ever figure that if we focused our energies on trying to find answers, we could at least then spend time refining the needed skills to help us elevate our current deficiencies? And there's no doubt we (can) learn about ourselves and our game more when we lose than win. It just a matter of fine-tuning what we've learned into a positive experience for the future.But it's so much easier to make an excuse.Talking in the past tense is fine for losers ... should-a, could-a, would-a ... But for those of you who want to keep getting better and better, suck it up when you lose, congratulate and thank your opponent, make some notes and give them a heads-up that the next time you're gonna be more prepared with what you've learned. That makes it fun all the way around and it keeps them on their toes, too.Doesn't all of this just make you wish you'd had a terrible childhood, so at least you'd have an excuse?(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-445-1331 or choward4541@q.com)
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