• Comment

Mark My Words: Know Your Average

Posted: December 6, 2017 - 1:37am

I'd like to share a story about a young man I taught here in Augusta.

The young man was a fine player. He worked hard, did most of what I asked and in general was a good kid. The one thing that seemed contrary to the rest of his personality was that he was often negative about his performance, even when he seemed to play well. When I'd ask, "How did you play today?" he often responded with, "Mark, I didn't play so well. I'm so tired of not doing my best."

Pay close attention to hear the moral of the story. I said, "Tony, you don't get to play your best most of the time. If you did, it would not be your best, it would be your average."

As a sidebar, this kid was a straight-A student and very introspective. He immediately challenged my response: "Mark, you can't say that. There are plenty of people who go out and most of the time come very close to playing up to their potential."

I asked if he would indulge me for a few minutes. I believed I could help him approach his results with a better spirit and give him a better way to look at matches.

Rather than sharing my dialogue, I will speak directly to you, and hopefully you'll get a sense of how my conversation went. First, let's look at the word "average" and try to discard any negative baggage it may carry. Average is the middle, it's what happens most of the time, and average does not stink.

If a good junior tennis player plays 10 competitive matches, his results might look like this: He played one match in which he stunk it up, one match a little below par, six matches that were somewhat alike, one match slightly better than normal, and one match where he was practically tour material.

Do you want to guess which one most junior tennis players think represents their true self? Correct, the day they were tour material. There's nothing wrong with expecting to give it your all and do well, but to expect a level of performance that occurs only one in 10 times is to set yourself up for disappointment. Those six matches that were somewhat alike, those are the matches that represent your true tennis self.

A better approach would be to go into the match planning to give it your best and fight as hard as you can, but formulate a game plan around what happens most of the time when you play. What you do most of the time is your average. Get okay with that. I'm not advocating you accept mediocrity, but instead, know yourself, your game and plan a strategy around getting the most from it. You can always work harder in practice and improve, change the current state of who you are as a player. And guess what, your new average will be better than your old average and getting better will continue to be exciting. But plan your strategy around what you do most of the time, not what you do on those days when you are "tour material."

 

Mark is the tennis director at West Lake Country Club and a USPTA Master Professional.

 

  • Comment