Just recently, I was invited to fill-in for an injured 70+ friend and go to Cleveland to play doubles in the Senior Olympics (and have a very good chance of winning a medal)… and chose not to. That decision made me reflect on my “tennis motivations.”

My family (who happened to be visiting with us at the Lake at the time) asked me, “If you really care about tennis so much, why don’t you go?”

Getting on a plane and flying to Cleveland in the middle of July, to stay in a hotel for a week, and play one match a day vs. staying in our cottage on Lake Sunapee and playing/practicing with my friends just was not appealing.

And compare that sentiment with the efforts of another New Hampshire friend to win a Gold Ball some year by flying around the country (and the world) to play as many tournaments as possible.

After some days of reflection, I came to this conclusion…

I care more about the PROCESS than the results. I LOVE playing tennis and working hard to try to get better every year – even as I reach the lofty age groups. But I care more for the satisfaction that skill and improvement brings me, than the satisfaction of improving my ranking (which I don’t even know what it is).

P.S. Congrats to Naples friend George Dalphon who DID go to Cleveland and won the Gold in both 60s singles and doubles. The link to the full results is HERE.

How about you… what turns you on in your tennis game?

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9 thoughts on “Introspection

  1. Hi George. Excellent piece. You made the same decision I would have, for most of the same reasons. Plus…..Cleveland?! See you in 2 1/2 months. Now there is a trip that rarely disappoints. Cheers, Kevin

    Kevin … I agree, going to Newk’s is always worth the effort! Thanks… George

  2. You are so right, George, that it must be the process that draws us. A teacher I’ve long admired and am currently working with, Steve Stefanki, told me this years ago: outcome is passive, process is active. Of course for many others the process of traveling to many tournaments is also valid. My thinking is that everyone must get clear — as you just did — on what kind of process they truly wish to engage in. For many years I employed the language of outcome, that I was engaged in the pursuit of winning. To some degree, that helped me improve, build intensity, compete well, practice hard. All of that still matters to me, but at heart, that’s really a process, that to me competitors compete — that is, they make the effort and sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. So what I realize now is that I’m most in the process of engagement. Be it a lesson, drill, doubles match, singles — the process of engagement and the attendant pursuit of improvement.

    What I find sad is the ways people delude themselves:
    – thinking they’re pursuing improvement without truly investing much time or, yes, money, in lessons
    – competing but not really growing as a player

    This is a great topic, George. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    Joel – on your last point, i am “confused” by those tennis players who profess wanting to improve, but do absolutely nothing about it! thanks, george.

  3. Several years ago a friend from NJ, Ed Torres, went to the Senior Games in Arizona. He was a former #1/all american at Rider. He had to win 2 tournaments to get there and the Seniors draw was a full 128. With work he did not have time to play USTA tournaments but won the Seniors 65 singles. That motivated him to go back to Rider and become the coach for both the men and women’s teams. At 80 years old he is still coaching, which makes him one of the oldest current NCAA coaches in the country. Congrats to George D…that’s a great win.

  4. Well put, Joel and George. I would much rather try the most difficult shot or the most difficult shot for me, rather than the routine to just win a point, especially in practice. I play tournaments for a variety of reasons, none of which is to come out as a winner. If that happens, then fine. But I play to hope that I get a free trip to the World Team championships or an event like I just had at Wimbledon, or to be able to see friends or family, or have a new travel experience, those types of things. There’s nothing better to me than having a doubles game with buddies.
    And thanks George for having such a great web sight for all us old guys:)!

    Fred – yes, and it doesn’t hurt to win! tks, george

  5. To Doug Brunner: When I was growing up and first played tennis, there was an Ed Torres that was the teaching pro on the 3 clay courts at the Manasquan River Yacht Club in Brielle, NJ until he moved over to the Spring Lake Bath & Tennis. He would be about that age – is that him?

    On subject – be kind to those of us who compete but do not really seem to grow as a player. It is not always failure to invest time and/or money. Sometimes it is not understanding where the weaknesses are and/or how to improve them that holds us back. Even a good pro may not see that clearly if the problem is not really technical. There are many ways to be up against a barrier to improvement and the answer ain’t always straightforward!

    Geoff … On the technical improvement side, using video is a great aid. George

  6. To Geoff Renk – Yes that is the same Ed Torres. His father also taught at Spring Lake B&T. I played with Ed and Bob Weise regularly at Manasquan YC.

  7. Thanks for the congrats George. Almost a week of hotel living is not something I ever look forward to. Also, 9 matches on hard courts over only 5 days is a feat I plan to never duplicate. So why do I play? On the plus side there are very few players I don’t like, so I look forward to the social aspect which results in just plain FUN. There is the exercise element. It sure beats running around a circle, and if you don’t bring your best, you lose. Also, I have hardly ever had any pain on a tennis court. Once the point begins there is no room in my brain for any thought other than how to win the point.
    On the negative side though I must admit I never learned to deal with the 45% failure rate when I win and the 55% failure rate when I lose. I also dislike the constant discomfort my body feels between each time on the court as well as the commitment required to play with the better players. Overall, tennis is a life style choice that I’m thankful for every day.

    George… Look forward to seeing you down south this fall. George

  8. To both Doug Brunner and Geoff Renk – Ed Torres was my high school tennis coach at Neptune High School and the guy who introduced me to the game. He is still coaching at Rider University. Big Ed (as we used to call him) is one of my all time tennis heroes. I have never encountered smoother strokes and a more relaxed and elegant kind of game on anybody. He also had the most uncanny knack to hit the line on pretty much every stroke. Small world indeed.

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