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Wed, July 17

Column: Competitive tennis is looking for you

Healthy competition is fun and tests our skill sets in many ways - physically, mentally, socially, as sportsmen, fairness, and the list goes on.

Can other things enter that arena that are not so nice? You bet, but that is far from the norm. 

When I'm out teaching tennis, surrounded by other courts of people playing the game, men, women and children of all ages, I really get a kick out of listening and watching the camaraderie, the laughter, hard work, concentration and most importantly the friendship that is taking place.

Seeing the high school players working out, the better players pushing the ones of lesser ability working their way up the ladder is an interesting process.  The USTA men's and women's leagues are doing much the same.  Our local pros running clinics and team practices to help them learn the finer points of strokes, strategy and mental toughness.  Learning to keep their calm and cool under pressure, even to enjoy those moments no matter the outcome.

Competition is much like life, you learn to do what it takes to survive - not at the expense of others, but with them.  The better you get at it the more enjoyable it is and the more you can help others achieve some of your similar goals.  We seem to push one another along.  When our friends get better we want to keep up or even take the lead when that's possible.

Putting yourself into first learning the game, then into a match, then a playing group, a USTA league, tournament and such is a certain amount of pressure and self-expectation.  You might do okay, or you might get clobbered.  Many times in a tournament you may win a round or two and then meet your match.  It's a bit of the unknown and that's what makes it fun and challenging. The chips fall where they fall.

All you can really ask of yourself is, for the amount of time you've had to practice, did you try as hard as you could, stay positive and enjoy each moment?  Even if you're getting your hat handed to you did you keep trying? It's easy to quit, but part of the challenge is to continue on.  The nice thing about competing is, there's always the "next time."

So when you find yourself coming up short after a match evaluate what took place, and maybe even make some notes.  What did they do better than me?  Where were my weaknesses?  Did I put myself in over my head or were most of my matches competitive?  What can I do to improve my shortfalls?

I love to compete, but I don't love to get killed.  I love to see what the best players can do and how they got there.  It seems most of the time they've worked very hard, are in good shape and are more than match tough due to the time they commit.  Most of them are more than willing to share their journey and give pointers to help others reach their goals.

And then there are people who like to play the game, but do not like to compete in more than a friendly game.  They don't like the added pressure of league play or tournaments.  Nothing wrong with that.  It seems in most cases those people have had a not-so-good experience somewhere along the line and it took its toll on them.  Personally I feel they might be missing out, but it's understandable.

On occasion you get a player who makes too many bad calls, or someone that is a pain to play with, but once again just as in normal day-to-day living you run into all kinds of personalities and the key is to surround yourself with the ones you enjoy.  Here and there that just doesn't work out.  Everyone has a bad day on occasion, but it's tough to partner with a know-it-all, or a player who puts you down when you make a mistake.  Hopefully those players catch a clue or no one will stick around very long when they are asked to partner with them.

We have a couple fun events coming up that many of you tennis players hopefully will want to partake in with the first being a "Singles NTRP Tennis Grand Prix", Sunday, May 17, from noon to 4/5 p.m.  The cost is $15 per player and prizes go to the finalists.  To enter just email with your name and ability level.  It's by ability not age and played at the Yavapai College Tennis Center.

The other event is the "Prescott Memorial Weekend NTRP Tennis Tournament", May 22-24 and it consists of singles, doubles and mixed events for all abilities.  To enter go to the USTA website - tennislink.  The tournament ID # is 750020415.

A little competition goes a long way. Join in and have some fun on the courts at the Yavapai College Tennis Center.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry.  He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or


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