Monday, January 21, 2008

In with the New

"The best thing to give up in a New Year's resolution is to give up giving up." Anonymous.

In celebration of the new beginning represented by the coming year, I offer this resolution. Let us all make a commitment to give up the phrase "I can't." It serves no purpose in your growth as a tennis player, and I say forget about it-give yourself a fresh start for 1998. I hear this Phrase too often when teaching a new concept in a lesson. The student has come seeking to make changes and improvements in hopes of becoming a better tennis player. My job is to facilitate this process by offering advice, instruction, philosophy, an amusing anecdote or two, whatever I can throw at the student to further his/her progress. This Phrase (which I will not repeat again) creates a barrier to learning and is its own self-fulfilling prophecy as indeed one cannot do something new when they've decided not to.

"I think I can. I think I can." The little engine that could.

Once upon a time, we all loved this story, but as we grew into adulthood we have passed it off as childish. The reality of the adult world, we claim, is that there are things one simply can't do. This is not true. Why should we no longer be capable of change when we reach a certain age? We can no longer do things because we forget this message. We impose limitations on ourselves and aren't surprised when we can't exceed them. The mantra, "I think I can" is not to be forgotten after childhood. Rather it must be repeated, brought into play with every obstacle, hill and valley we face. Accepting that we can change and improve, opens a door within ourselves to rise over the next peak. Only by thinking we can improve ourselves are we able to do so.

"Changes in latitude, changes in attitude, nothing remains quite the same." Jimmy Buffet.

A word of warning to those of you that have accepted the challenge that my resolution offers. You will not be the same person you were before. Your friends and family may not recognize you. You will be getting better faster than you have ever done before. You may change levels quickly, reaching new heights you had once only seen in daydreams. This can be frightening, perhaps seemingly overwhelming. The easy path is to say The Phrase and stop growing, stop improving. But this resolution is too important to ignore. In order to unleash your true potential as a player and a person, you must believe you can and never stop developing.

"There are two ways of meeting difficulties: you alter the difficulties, or you alter yourself meeting them." Phyllis Bottome.

Today you are faced with a new task. Something you have never tried before, something outside of your comfort zone. In the old year, many of you would have made a face, shrugged your shoulders and offered that Phrase and failed to pick up the new concept. It's the new year though, the new you. The new stroke (grip, whatever) may feel just as awkward, just as strange, but you relish that feeling. You are being challenged physically and mentally in a way that you haven't been before and that feeling is exciting. You are a kid trying to ride a bicycle for the first time again. The thrill of discovery and conquering the unknown is within you, and you are making strides you haven't made since the first moment a racket was placed in your hands. It's no longer a question of "can I?", but "how soon will I?" - Nick Sousanis (January 1998)

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