Tennis wisdom just keeps coming.
Recently, I wrote about advice from a tennis instructor who urged me to “care less” to have more fun, probably perform better and be less stressed. Good advice for tennis and life.
Another instructor has what those of us who learn from her call “Katie-isms.” I’ll give you two that hit me, and work for my writing and teaching lives as well.
“The party is at the net.”
In tennis, many people play far back in the court, swinging those hard, long zingers. (Watch any tennis tournament on TV and you’ll know what I mean).
But Katie says coming to the net is where you can play offense — hit those zingers before they go too far, slam a ball at your opponent and generally take away their time. That makes the opponent feel stress and leads to mistakes.
But most people don’t want to go to the net because it’s scary. A zinger could hit you in the chest or leg or face. Who wants to risk it? But that’s Katie’s point — it’s risky but the payoffs can be huge. You could slam a volley at your opponent’s feet, send one up the middle to confuse those across the net, or smash an overhead and win the point.
Katie says to think of playing at the net as a party: It’s where the action is, and it can be loads of fun when it works.
When I teach, normally I plan out group discussions, topics and small group exercises with military precision, minute by minute. But I know, like some military experts, that there are times for flexibility, for taking risks. So I might make a risky change in topics, in method, in how I encourage class members to interact.
And I do it in real time, during class itself — and hope that class members don’t know that I’m doing it! It’s my version of having a party at the net. It’s risky, but when it works, the payoff can be super, with more a-ha moments for the participants, more engagement and deeper discussion.
“There’s always another ball.”
A second Katie-ism is that in tennis, another ball is always on its way to you. I read that two ways.
First, during play, think of “another ball” as one more challenge or problem to overcome. Our lives are littered with obstacles, and tennis is another place to practice resilience. It also reminds me that this particular challenge is not huge in the scheme of life, so I shouldn’t stress about it.
I also think that when “another ball” arrives, it’s yet another chance to practice what I’m learning in tennis — turning to get into ready position, moving my feet, pushing forward, following through.
And again, in teaching, “there’s always another class.” If I bomb one day, I have another chance to get it right the next day. I think I’ll keep trying to learn tennis if only for the wisdom.
Nancy Napier is a distinguished professor emerita and coach for the executive MBA program in the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University in Idaho. firstname.lastname@example.org. She is co-author of “ The Bridge Generation of Vietnam: Spanning Wartime to Boomtime .”