Lesson # 1: Remain in the moment
Nothing frustrates a player more than hitting the net or missing an easy overhead smash. For students it might be failing a test or missing an easy mark. But professionals can’t allow their minds to dwell on the past. They certainly can’t allow their attention to drift into the future before they’ve finished the present game. Leave the court before the match is over? Never!
How good are you at remaining in the moment? Does your mind wander in the middle of class? What price do you pay for getting distracted? Stay focused in the present, the here and the now. Keep your eye on the ball that’s in play.
Lesson # 2: Keep getting the ball back
Just one more time. Rafa Nadal has won Roland Garros seven times. He’s famous for scrambling after every ball and returning shots most players give up on. Students, you need to scramble after every idea. Give every concept your best shot.
Winston Churchill told pupils at his former school: Never give in ÔÇônever, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
Lesson # 3: Persist and practise
Keep coming back for more. Ask for extra help if you need it. Keep up with every assignment. You’ve got to keep playing the game ÔÇô attending class and being fully present – and you’ve got to put in the practice time (better known as homework) in order to succeed.
Lesson # 4: Get over the bad calls.
They happen. People calling the lines are usually right but they will occasionally get it wrong. Get over it. Let it go. If you don’t, you’ll lose a whole bunch of points as you stew over the one point you felt you should have won. We’re all familiar with bad calls. You didn’t get the mark you thought you deserved. A teacher underestimated your effort. The umpires in your life are giving you a hard time. Get over it. Let it go.
Lesson # 5: Set up Rituals
Pro tennis players have clear routines like bouncing the ball before they serve. It’s always the same number of bounces, the same setup of the feet. There’s a rhythm to their preparation.
What do you do every time you’re about to do your homework? Do you have a set ritual? Or do you approach your work differently each time? Remember: a ritual clears the mind and readies it for getting things done. Establish your own work rituals. You’ll be serving aces before long.
Lesson # 6: Know your target
See it in your mind first, then let yourself play the shot. No pro tennis player throws up a service toss without knowing exactly where it’s going. They’re not just trying to hit the service box. No, they’ve picked out a specific spot. In their mind’s eye they’ve already seen exactly where the ball is going.
For students this means you must see your goals very clearly. Give yourself a specific target to aim at, then let your mind imagine exactly what it will feel like to reach that goal. Rehearse success in your mind, then you’ll be ready to achieve it.
Lesson # 7: Rely on your team
Despite what you may think, tennis is not an individual sport. You need a team. Pro tennis players often look up into the stands between points, but they’re not looking at just any group of fans, they’re looking for their special group of supporters. They have coaches and family members on their team.
You have coaches ÔÇô they’re called teachers. Plus your family and friends are rooting for you to succeed. You’re going to need them when the going gets tough.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell observes: No one ÔÇô not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires and not even geniuses ÔÇô ever makes it alone. Look for your team. Rely on them.
As you play your matches, let’s recall these seven tennis lessons:
1. Remain in the moment.
2. Keep getting the ball back.
3. Persist and practise.
4. Get over the bad calls.
5. Set up rituals.
6. Know your target.
7. Rely on your team.
The classroom is your tennis court. Now you’re set to win the big contests of learning and life. (Andrew Taylor is the Principal of the Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana.┬á His email address is: [email protected]┬á Maru-a-Pula’s website is: www.maruapula.org)┬á