„Perfect shot”. „It was a perfect match”. „The conditions were perfect”. These and many more sentences we can hear during practice sessions or while being on the tournament. What is the one word that connects all these examples? The word is „perfect”. For many of us hearing this word is a motivational boost of energy but it also has some serious problems hidden behind. Perfect world doesn’t exist so you should be aware where you are heading for…
Tennis is a difficult sport. If we want to get to the top we have to compete against thousands of players who have the same dream, more money than you, better hitting partners and environment that you can forget about. That is why we coaches put a lot of emphasis on effort. With this approach it doesn’t matter how much talent you have because you are sure that you put your best effort every day. There are some things under our control like effort or emotional control but there are also factors that we can do nothing about like weather conditions or draw in the tournament. Hearing that we have to be the best every day on and off the court we start to misunderstand the process that we participate in. Giving your best effort doesn’t mean that you will be perfect. It still means a lot of mishits, hundreds of mistakes and thousands of collapses. Giving your best is your attitude – not your performance or false assessment.
Trying to be perfect can lead to many unpleasant situations. Starting from frustration, going through the anger, and finishing with a burnout that can result in the end of playing career. These facts should make players and coaches aware that it is not worthy to try to hit all the balls exactly where we intended too or to win all the matches in 365 days. Tennis as any other sport is a constant learning path where players go through many ups and downs. Big achievements come from experiences that are based on failures so looking at mistakes as negative things prevents from achieving own potential.
Is Roger Federer perfect? I don’t think so. He missed many shots and lost many matches. Is Serena Williams perfect? The answer is NO. She didn’t win all Grand Slam tournaments and you can find many of her matches that she supposed to win but she didn’t manage to do so. That is why trying to be perfect is a false approach. If you have it already you can consciously work on this weakness to finally get rid of it. Why shouldn’t you be perfect? Look below:
Being perfect is impossible
I know Adidas’ slogan that „Impossible is nothing” but I think even Adidas doesn’t have power to make tennis career perfect. Perfect means immaculate. Perfect means that everything is executed without mistakes. Is it possible in the long-term process as tennis career is? I don’t think so. You will always miss some balls and lose some matches. This is truth and it is time to accept it. If being perfect is impossible to achieve why would you spend valuable time of trying to get it?
Being perfect makes you sad
If you try to be perfect you will never be happy of your small and bigger achievements. If you make 9 of 10 shots in the exact spot that you wanted to hit them you will be sad because you could make 10/10. If you play your first Grand Slam and you „only” reach semifinal you won’t be happy because there were chances to make the final. If you don’t break the record of consecutive won matches on clay you will not feel successful because there is always someone better than you. It simply means that you will never be happy. Playing tennis for many years requires happiness to wake up every day and do your routines. If you are sad you will not only make your experiences less valuable but you can also face serious burnout.
Being perfect leads to overloads
You can always do more. You can always do things better. There is no finish line for you. These motivational lines are great for serious players who start to understand that it is critical to put best effort every day. If you stay with this mindset it is great for your performance. On the other hand if these lines make you feel not perfect and you realize it is time to change it you risk much more than you think. If you try to be perfect you will always look for more. More practice sessions, more load in the gym, more tournaments to chase ranking points and „more”. In the short-term you will see a positive impact on your change but in the long-term your mental and physical health will be hurt. More injuries, more stress, more doubts…
This article can be hard to understand for many players. I am not saying that you shouldn’t try really hard every day. I am also not saying that trying to go a little over the line is a bad thing. To get to the top you have to take some risk but you can achieve it without being perfect. Knowing that you can get your dreams with some mistakes and lost matches will make the process much more friendly and achievable. Perfect solution right?:)
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 50 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.