HELLO AMERICA!—No matter where one travels in America to find out what young people need to hear or know that all the challenges being faced from day to day is worth it. Most people questioned believe Sports is a panacea for many of our social problems today in our country. When speaking with celebrated tennis player Rich Carson, who currently heads up the San Francisco YMCA Tennis organization, he believes that much of the frustration and pent-up emotions are minimized when facing a challenger on a court.
“First of all,” Carson says, “immediately, there is a natural respect you have for the person you’re playing against. You realize that he or she wouldn’t be there unless there was something special about how the game is played. Yeah, there’s a kind of psychology approach attached to it. You size each other up. Within moments from the way the person moves or attacks in returning the ball over the net gives you a sense how he thinks. So, one has to determine what he must do in order to survive and ultimately win.”
When asking Carson why he and other athletes are so into the tennis game itself, he simply listed reasons that made sense.
“Speaking for myself and observing tons of other players is (1) We have a vision and deeper purpose. (2) We are willing to get up at any hour in the morning to go train. (3) We are willing to go harder and longer than our opponents. (4) We never look for excuses or blame others. We take responsibility.
(5) We never blame their circumstances or past. (6) We are obsessed and constantly thinking about it. (7) We have a deeper purpose and are driven by their ‘why’.” (8) We are protective of their energy and who we associate with. (9) We aren’t trying to be perfect; instead we are doing, trying, failing and trying again until we get it right. (10) Last, but not least, and probably the most important one; we simply want it more and will do whatever it takes.
- Having lunch with my best friend Andy, in the late summer of 1985 watching the Ivan Lendl John MaCenroe US Open final – I was so enthralled by the one-on-one competition, imagining myself competing in front of that crowd, on national television, really with the whole world watching.
That same day, after watching the match I went to hit tennis balls with my friend Andy and I cold nail a screaming forehand just like Ivan did on TV. After that I was hooked for life.
From that moment on I was going to try and become the best tennis player I could. I modelled my game after Ivan and eventually after about 8-years I could serve and hit a forehand like a pro, however, my net game approach shot and backhand were not where they needed to be to be #1 in the world, which is all I could think about after watching the 85 US Open final.
The fact was it takes tennis pros many years to master the art of competitive tennis (at the highest level) and in my innocence I was completely clueless about what it would actually take to make it on the tour.
QUICK ANSWERS TO QUICK QUESTIONS
I had no instructor, let alone a pro coach, no money, and I started playing tennis 10-years too late.
- The feeling of hitting a tennis ball was indescribable. It really just felt good to have an outlet where I knew I would be challenged to my limits mentally and physically.
- Winning always felt good, but winning with grace and sportsmanship was something that gave much more fulfillment. Back in my college days I could always recall almost every point after a match even for weeks after.
- Losing was always humbling and much more provoking. Licking the wounds after tough losses would always make me think harder about where I needed to improve and therefore, for me were always more motivating and somehow felt more productive, especially as a self-taught player.
- Tennis allowed me a chance to go to college, to stay out of trouble, and stay on track with my career. The critical thinking skills and confidence I gained from the early years of completion provided me a way to start a career in coaching, which I have now been doing for over 25-years.
- My students learn the fundamentals of tennis and to have fun. More importantly I allow them to learn at their own pace, but mostly they learn that the best way to learn is through initiative and to never give up. Letting comes at different speeds for each player/student and persistence always pays off, even if not to the level you expect.
- After 35-years of playing and 25-years of coaching I am much more patient and observant. Much more willing to listen rather than tell and always willing to take the time to slow down and allow life to filter into the equation.
- Tennis is less of a passion than it used to be as I am focusing a lot on learning about retirement and investing. However, I will always have tennis in my life and suspect that I’ll be back to tournament play for the 50 year-old senior division next year and that I will be back to my old competitive self once I’ve hit the hill trail on the coast here in San Francisco for a few weeks. Without reaching my fitness peak I won’t be hitting that running forehand winner!