I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. - Michael Jordan
I'm sure every athlete has envisioned themselves in the big moment; making the game-winning goal in overtime, coming from behind and getting that home run when it matters most, winning those 7-6 sets. We train for moments like these. But sometimes things don't go as planned.
In my past four tournaments, I've had set points in four out of nine matches and ended up losing the set and the match. Together, I've had 16 set points. That's 0-16. I know that I can occasionally be a bit of a drama queen, but the feeling of failing when you're so close to succeeding is beyond brutal. No one wants to think about being so close and not coming out on top. As athletes, we aren't trained to think that way. So what happens when you drop the ball? Worse, what happens when you drop the ball SIXTEEN times?
You keep going. You figure out what's going wrong, and you work until you can't possibly make that mistake again. Equally as important? You find the positives. You're probably thinking, "Wow Shelby. Find the positives? 0-16, hello? That means zero positives." But, you're wrong (sorry).
For me, one of the biggest positives is that I'm consistently getting myself to these big moments against good players. I've shown that I can compete at a top 200 WTA level. I've shown that I can get into winning positions even while not playing my best. These are positive things. I'm knocking on the door. Am I still 0-16? Yeah, absolutely. But as soon as I figure out my contribution to that horrible ratio - and you bet I'm going to figure it out - this is going to be another struggle that brings me to the next level.
If you can't find the positives in tough situations, it's going to be very hard to figure out how to fix whatever is going wrong. My coach is probably having a heart attack reading this right now, as I've been notoriously negative throughout my career. Recently, one of my friends said something that stuck with me: "Negativity is pointless, and when you say things it gives it power."
How true is that? What is to be gained from constant negativity? All that's going to happen is that you're going to be too caught up with berating yourself to even begin to figure out how you can improve, and worse, you're going to start believing the negative things that you're saying. Improvement is a positive thing, so how can it happen with negativity?
In the end, these things happen. If you ask pretty much any athlete, I'm almost positive that they'll all jump in and start telling you about this time or that time when they failed in the most heart-breaking ways possible. The ones who succeed are those that realize that something can be learned from even the most horrible-feeling failures. Instead of sitting and pouting in their negativity, they go out and figure out how to make sure that 0-16 never happens again.
Former Hawkeye now playing tennis professionally; Journalism major.