Five Years Plus

{March 21, 2010}   Breakthrough

I spent this week in Toronto competing in the Canadian Eastern Senior Nationals tennis tournament. I visited with old friends, met new ones and learned to play with a magnificent new doubles partner. Toronto is such a great city and Chuck and I had many adventures including finding the trendy health food restaurants, drinking green beer in an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day and getting our car towed! We ate delicacies such as an organic salad made from carrots, sunflower sprouts, avocado and grilled tempe, a raw “live” pizza as well as a spelt-crust pizza with five kinds of organic meat. We drank fresh organic juice, hot chocolate from cacao beans ground by bicycle power in Mexico and Chuck sampled the single-malt Scotch collection at the Granite Club with a new friend. My brother and sister-in-law came up for the weekend, treated us to a sushi feast and shared our adventures. I organized a family get-together on Friday night, hosted by my cousin and his wife, who were so gracious to adapt to unfortunate tournament scheduling by starting the party early. Afterward my “entourage” of six, including my nephew Thomas, came and supported me through a two-hour see-saw singles battle ending at 10pm.

I came to this tournament with very specific goals. In childhood I was a natural competitor, entering myself in a tournament at age 10 and two years later becoming the youngest player invited to join the British Columbia provincial team. I competed for eight joyous summers and played two years of Division I college tennis before hanging up my racquet in pursuit of the wider world. Coming back to tennis competition as an adult has been unexpectedly challenging both mentally and physically. First, I experienced a level of nervousness I had never known in my youth. Although I appeared calm on court, inside I was extremely tense, resulting in play that fell consistently below my potential. Second, as my regular readers already know, I developed a persistent case of tennis elbow two years ago which had until now, limited my competitive aspirations. This tournament was my re-entry into competitive singles, which is the event in which I experience the greatest anxiety and the most susceptibility to injury.

I decided to use this week to reorient how I manage a tournament and set priorities in this order:

  1. have fun
  2. stay healthy
  3. stay relaxed and play my best.

I absolutely had fun, both on court and off. I played five matches in four days and am happy to report that I also stayed healthy. In fact, traveling home today I noticed my back felt better than it did on the drive up.

I know that many of you are probably wondering “did you win?” After all, this is usually the first (and sometimes only) question asked after a match. I won two and lost three which strictly speaking is my second worst result in this type of tournament. Although I am not coming home with a trophy, I am glowing with a new understanding that comes from my heart, not my head. While it is great to win, my real accomplishment this week was finally playing from a place of relaxation and joy, thereby playing my best. This is the breakthrough I was looking for when I worked with a sports psychologist throughout 2008. It’s funny how life has a way of giving us what we want once we have stopped struggling for it.


Lisa Nojaim says:

What an incredible post! In fact, if you didn’t reveal the match results at all, I would have already thought you won it all. And, you did!
Many blessings, Gyata.

Sue says:

Gyata – Another great sentence at the end of this weeks blog that we should all remember daily – Life has a way of giving us what we want once we have stopped struggling for it. Keep writing!!!

Ann Hedley says:

Didn’t expect a blog entry this week! Great that you met your tournament goals and had fun along the way. I always enjoy my trips to Toronto. We look forward to seeing you and seeing you play in August. Cheers, Ann

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