May 5, 2017
The regional tournament is equivalent to (at least for the lower group of tennis teams) March Madness in NCAA basketball. The pressure is on for each player in Colorado as the rules say that you have to win or come in second in your flight to go to state. During this week's regional, my team was ranked no higher than 3rd in all the flights so expectations (on paper) were low. The top two teams consisted of players that have been playing and coached by a pro since a young age. To put it in perspective, the top school in our region has more state championships in tennis than any other school! We had our work cut out for us!
We definitely played our best tennis of the year. A few flights were within points of going to state while a flight in singles even made state by upsetting the 2 seed and claiming the 2nd place position. It was nice to hear a player on the other team say out loud "I told you Castle View was good but you didn't listen!" With all of the incredibly close matches with our team and even between other teams, I came away with a few things that might be worth noting.
Wanting to Win Can Get In the Way of Winning
No one goes out to play to lose but ironically that is exactly what happens when someone wants to win too badly. Tennis takes a clear mind, fast feet and a lose grip. All of this revolves around being relaxed. When players put pressure on themselves to want to win so bad, they try harder than they need to, causing silly mistakes and a match of ups and downs that makes the overall experience of playing miserable. The best player in the state played in our region and was a perfect example of what to do. She kept it very simple by not over hitting and making her opponents try to hit incredibly difficult shots to beat her. The matches were not even close as she thumped all the players that tried for shots they were not capable of hitting.
Play Tough Opponents
Our preparation for this tournament was built around a schedule that was very difficult. We played 4 teams that will get in the top 10 in state this year while a few others that were close to that caliber. Our girls came into regionals seeing every tough opponent imaginable. This allows for them to play with confidence knowing they can hang with anyone they play. Make sure you consider playing against players that are ranked higher than you as much as possible so that when you play against someone of your ability, you can have the confidence that you trained with someone better than that opponent. For players to hit with in the Colorado area, look up www.opencourtclub.com
Play to Win Not to Not Lose
Winning the first set can be a difficult situation for many players. Coming away with a close first set win can put you in a mindset to "not screw this up." This mentality forces a passive approach to the game and ironically creates more mistakes due to the fear of screwing up. I saw this in all teams at regionals. Don't fall into the trap of changing your game plan from the first set. Keep the pedal to the medal to avoid a let down in performance.
Remember What Competition Stands For
The most important lesson that I wish more of the top girls in the region would remember is what competition really means. The root word has a meaning of "to strive with." This puts things in a much different perspective as you are not trying to beat someone you are playing but merely trying to push them to play their best. If you happen to win, great but the main goal is to push each other so that both players can enjoy playing to the best of their ability. Too many times I saw poor sportsmanship as the girls were desperate to win at any costs. They forget the meaning of competition and why we play sports in the first place. Just watch an epic match between the top players in the world to see what this means. When the match is finished, win or lose, they embrace to congratulate one another for a hard fought battle that allowed them to both play as good of tennis as possible. Try this mentality the next time you play to have a better mindset in your match.