– and enjoying yourself while at it.

Tennis has been my passion for a long time. I was initiated into the game at a local club and learnt the basics of the game fairly quickly. Initially, the regular players would be extremely, hesitant to play with a ‘Fresher’. Who wouldn’t be? That too if the fresher was a 6 foot someone, stiff and awkward with a racket in hand. 

I didn’t let it be. I was determined to play tennis and that brought commitment and passion to the court. My game improved, thanks to that, but I realized that I was getting tired and I ended up annoyed with myself. Instead of enjoying the game (which is what a game is primarily about), I was playing to prove my capability and ensure that I was accepted. 

I was fortunate that at this stage, one of the ‘Senior Players’ discerned my awkward plight. He gifted me a copy of Inner Tennis: Playing the Game. This didn’t just change my game, but also my life.

The book deals with two key aspects of the human psyche: self-image and the will to win

I learnt that there is an opponent inside us – more formidable than the one across the net. This is what prevents an individual or a team from reaching their full potential.  When we are disturbed with anxiety, self-doubt and concern about our image, we consequently allow our minds to be overpowered with directives and thoughts about the past and future. This inhibits the free and full expression of one’s potential. Be it on the court, in the classroom, on stage or in the cubicle! Yes, this is true when returning a tennis ball, writing an exam, making a speech or taking a business decision.

I then become far more aware of myself while playing the game. When rallying before the game – my action was smooth and I was a lot more relaxed. However, I realized that I was playing awkwardly particularly during a ‘set’.  

I knew I was anxious. It was obvious! To overcome this, I practised the “Bounce-hit’ drill, which I learnt from Inner Tennis; The ‘bounce-hit’ exercise is a method for keeping the mind calm so the body can hit the ball. Gallaway has explained how a novice learnt to play Tennis within 25 minutes, without any technical instructions. In fact, she serves an entire game against the novice without a double fault during the exercise.  This drill helped me concentrate on seeing and sensing the ball and then responding to it, instead of looking and trying to slam it! You, see I took the Grand Slam quite literally! 

I experienced a major shift in my game. I was in control and was able to keep the ball in play for a much longer time. And yes, I was now accepted by the other ‘Senior players’! Yet, at this stage, I was still not able to win.

‘Inner Tennis’ – helped me realize that I needed to focus on one goal – ‘Play to Win’ – And not get distracted by secondary goals like ‘playing to keep fit’ or ‘playing to get accepted’… 

Playing tennis has now become an addiction. I use the following principles of my learning to not just play better but work better too.

  1. Be mindful of my current situation – my responsibility, my strengths, my weakness.
  2. Be conscious of where I want to go – my goals and dreams.
  3. Keep away internal interferences – self-doubt, fears and anxieties.
  4. Give up superfluous objectives.
  5. Seek inspiration from successful people, with similar commitment.
  6. Consciously and frequently develop a skill.
  7. Be intentional about winning!

As a leader, this has helped me be aware and sensitive about my team’s potential; help them overcome self-doubts and build confidence. With God’s grace, I have been tremendously successful in every endeavour. As I continue to play, live and learn, I realise that every game played well, every job done well, every day lived well and most importantly learning along the way – is a grand win-win!