“What ever happened to Shelby’s amazing (albeit slightly self-deprecating) blog posts? I really miss them!” Don't worry - to all three people who actually read this thing, my hiatus is (briefly) over, and here I am to throw some knowledge at you - although admittedly, I'm not 100% sure that I know what I'm saying, so if things go South, don't say I didn't warn you!
A lot of things have happened since my last post, but at the same time, it's as if nothing has happened at all! I made a few doubles finals this year, and reached my first singles final a few months ago, so I have successfully added an aggressive amount of second place trophies to my collection. But, of course, things haven't been all sunshine and rainbows (there has been a lot of literal sunshine here in Florida, but metaphorically speaking, I'd say my life weather forecast has been cloudy with a chance of sunshine and surprise thunderstorms!)
After a tough few weeks on the road, I called one of my best friends today to whine and complain. He (nicely) yelled at me. “What have you been complaining about, Shelby?!” asks all three of my readers, on the edge of their seats, dying to know my trials and tribulations. Don't worry, you won't have to skip to the end, I'll tell you all right now!
To give you the Sparknotes version, I called to complain about my tennis (no surprise there). Specifically, I explained my frustration that I can't seem to truly believe in my game, and that I don't play every match like I play in practice. Of course, it has improved; last year, I probably played about zero matches as freely as I do in practice, and now I'd say it's a solid four out of ten matches. For the math whizzes out there, that's still only 40%! I'm still failing! (Potentially even failing with a curve!)
What's the point in playing if I can't play how I do in practice every match? It's not fun to go out and underachieve, and it's not fun to lose when I know I can be doing so much more. I get stressed out, nervous, annoyed, and the whole thing ends up being miserable. Why am I even playing if I don't always believe in myself?
Instead of being nice (New Yorker’s don't really do nice, so I should have known) my friend basically told me that I have to get over myself and just do it. Okay, Nike, as if it’s that easy (rolls eyes). Begrudgingly, as he continued to give me his opinion on my situation, I had to admit to myself that he had a point - and possibly a good point that I could actually use:
“One day, your tennis career is going to be over. I don't want you to spend the rest of your life regretting how you played and thinking of how much more you could have done. Don't you think I would love to be playing a game instead of walking home from my office talking to you right now? I'd trade places with you in a heartbeat, and you're wasting your time and money not going out and playing every match with the freedom that you have in practice. If you know that you could be so much better by just playing freely every match, and you're still not doing it, then you're a dumbass, and you're going to regret that. That's how you get confidence; just do it; sure, maybe you fail a bit at first. But you'll be happy with how you competed, and it'll get better and better, and you'll find the confidence to play how you practice every single day.” (Who knew I had smart friends?!)
Is this easy advice to follow? Maybe not. But, how else can I work on making that four out of ten into 100%? Clearly, doing things my way isn't working. Most importantly, I really don't want to look back and regret how I competed or how I approached things, because traveling around the world playing a sport is probably going to beat any desk job that I have in the future. What I'm realizing is that the worst thing that can happen by approaching things differently is that I fail. I'm failing a lot anyway, so who cares!
Who knows, maybe writing this down will actually force me to make the change. Being able to compete at the level that I practice at is something I definitely need to improve on, and it's a big mental change; however, I think that looking at it from a perspective of “this life isn't going to last forever, so don't have any regrets” is a pretty helpful way to solidify a new mindset. I'll let you all know in another year, which is probably when I'll get around to writing another one of these exciting posts - don't miss me too much until then!
Former Hawkeye now playing tennis professionally; Journalism major.