Don't you hate playing your friends? Sure, you want to have fun. But what you really want to do is play well.
Maybe, if your friends are pretty good players, you want to show them you're not the weak link out on the court. (Read this post to figure out who IS the weak link: Pick On The Weak Link.) And what's the worst thing that can happen in this situation, the thing that inevitably happens? You completely tank. You play so poorly that you humiliate yourself. How can you ever face your friends again?
If this psychological drama doesn't sound familiar to you, congratulations. You're obviously a well-adjusted individual who does not let their athletic abilities (or inabilities) determine their self-worth. (Or possibly you're playing way too far down.)
But, if you've ever had even just a twinge of discomfort with playing your friends, here are a few things to think about that will get you through those matches with your friendship, and dignity, intact:
1. Realize that no one is thinking about you. You may think they are. But they're not. They're most likely thinking about themselves and how they are playing. In fact, your friends are probably just as worried as you about being perceived as the weakest link!
2. Forget about impressing anyone. It just never works. To play your best, you have to play relaxed. Trying to hit a really hard serve usually just results in hitting a really bad serve. And if you're in the situation where you need to impress someone because you're “trying out” for a team, its best to follow your mother's advice and just be yourself. Again, play relaxed and you'll see much better results.
3. Don't apologize for the quality of your play. I mean it. Absolutely do NOT apologize when you feel you are playing poorly. First, it doesn't help. Second, if your partner is upset because she thinks you're the reason for how badly things are going, apologizing will only piss her off more. Third, you have NOTHING to apologize for when you're playing tennis. It's a game for God's sake and it's supposed to be FUN!
4. And, remember – you only get better by playing better people. This is the one great truism about tennis. So don't feel badly if it turns out that, for this match at least, you ARE the weakest link. Play as well as YOU can and know that being beat by your friends can only make you a better player.
© Kim Selzman 2009
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