Saturday, March 29, 2008

Playing Tennis to Win

Harold Solomon, via ZooTennis:

I have a different perspective on winning than some other people in our profession. In my opinion it is ridiculous to ignore that the intention of tennis players when they compete in tournament play is to win. I don't see anything wrong with having that intention every time you walk on the court if you are thinking correctly about winning.
[...]
Most importantly, I have to love the competition, I have to thrive in that environment. I am not afraid of competing, it's what I live for. My job is to push myself, to test myself, to challenge myself.

That's what it's all about - the challenge, the risk of losing. That's what makes competition exciting. That's what makes it rewarding.

Take that objective "to win" out of it, and what do you have? An experience gutted of meaning.

Go read a novel instead. It's a much easier way to experience conflict without risk.

I wholeheartedly agree with Solomon. As he says, it's "ridiculous" to make something evil out of wanting to win and playing to win.

Just ask yourself: Was it winners or losers who spawned this idea? Losers, of course. People who can't take losing, so they make something evil out of beating them. To never risk losing, they never try to win.

THEY are the ones - yes, THEY are the ones - making too big a deal out of winning or losing!

The "reasoning" behind this nonsense fails even the most superficial nonsense check. It's all based on invalid assumptions, straw man arguments, and confusing the issue.

For example, I hate the false accusation that people who play to win are people "who will do anything to win," even cheat. Baloney.

It's quite the other way around.

The people "who will do anything to win" are not really playing to win. Their idea of winning is a perverted idea of winning. They are the ones who settle for hollow victories got through cheating. And they do this because all they care about are appearances, such as the final score. So, they are satisfied with a false win got through cheating.

They do this because they don't think they're capable of winning the legitimate way, and they are too weak to handle losing.

On the other hand, players who really want to win would get zero satisfaction out of such phony winning. They want real victories. In fact, they can tell you of moral victories they are proud and happy about even though they came out on the short end of the final score. In other words, they are real people pursuing the real thing, not mere vain appearances.

In fact, the main reason they don't resort to cheating or gamesmanship is because that would shame them: they would view it as an admission that they couldn't win the legitimate way. They think they are better than that.

This is why THEY - yes, THEY - are the sporting players who want to defeat you fair and square. They are the players who WON'T do just anything to win. Even on the Pro Tour where a great deal of money is at stake, we sometimes see these players give their opponent the next point to make up for a bad call. Why? Because they want nothing to tarnish the victory they seek.

Tennis is just a game. Nothing more, nothing less. The objective of any game is to win it. Winning is fun, and losing is a bummer. Nothing more, nothing less.

The joy of winning and the disappointment of losing are just emotions that pass in a matter of minutes or hours if we don't try to pretend them away (and thus lock them forever in the subconsciousness to motivate irrational behavior without our awareness of their influence on us).

Winning a tennis match never made one person morally superior to, or more noble than, another, and losing never killed anybody.

So, my advice to players and coaches is to use your own head and examine every idea that comes blowing to you in the wind. Don't just swallow whole all the chatter out there. An awful lot of it is stupid.

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