The other day I read an article in which the author was talking about how she doesn’t want her daughter to be an athlete because she would rather have her have a childhood… meaning she could jump puddle-to-paddle carefree or stare out the window anytime she wants to (literally the examples she was using). She also doesn’t want her daughter to be physically and mentally tortured by her coaches or deal with the constant stress of performing better. Not to mention the fact that the child is going to be disappointed and traumatized if she doesn’t become an Olympic athlete.
While I 100% respect that mother’s view and the way she decides to raise her child, I have to respectfully disagree with her reasoning so I decided to write up 10 reasons that being an athlete taught me.
So first of all
- Tennis never prevented me from jumping into puddles. You can still jump puddle to puddle AND play sports.
- Tennis also never prevented me from staring out windows…I was just staring out the window of a moving car, looking at beautiful and changing scenery while we drove to tournaments across the country, across Europe and the US.
- If your child’s coach is mentally and physically torturing your child then you have the wrong coach. You gotta go and find another one! That is not the sport’s fault. I had wonderful coaches growing up and learned a lot from them about tennis and life as well!
- I did not become an Olympic athlete and I am OK. But I never lied to myself and said I would. Neither did my parents nor my coaches tried to sell me some unrealistic dream. We sat a realistic goal to reach with hard work and I did my freakin’ best to reach those goals and it felt awesome when I did.
- I understand that being an athlete comes with a competitive environment, hard work and some amount of stress that the child has to deal with and this can be scary for a parent, but LIFE is pretty similar. Being an athlete prepared me for many things in life.
I am so thankful for tennis, it opened up so many wonderful opportunities in my life that I would have not had without it. It helped me get a scholarship in the USA, it helped me travel across my home country, Europe, and later the USA, it helped me meet people from all over the world and learn about other cultures. Without tennis, I would have not had these opportunities.
10 lessons that being an athlete taught me
1. Time Management
Yes being a student-athlete will require a busy schedule but what is wrong with that? I knew how much time I had to do homework and I knew if I didn’t get it done, I will fall behind. And sometimes I didn’t get stuff done and I was pretty screwed. I learned very quickly how to organize my tasks and get stuff done effectively.
2. Hard Work
Who is going to push you and motivate you if you don’t learn to do that yourself? True, being an athlete is hard, I had to work my butt off to reach my goals but it was a good way to learn that through the love of sports!
3. Setbacks Happen
Lost matches, sprained ankle, failed English exam….etc. There are so many set backs that one faces in life. After I signed my contract with Texas Tech, I failed my English exam and got denied. It would have been so much easier to stay at home and give up on my dream of coming to the States. Experiencing lots of set backs while playing a sport, I learned how to get over the “momentary” defeat, get up and start over again.
4. Fair Play & Sportsmanship
This is one of the most important of all. I learned how to respect others and how to be a fair player. A person I know once said that he would not shake hands with someone who defeated him. Well, first of all: Big Freakin’ NO! If you get your ass kicked by someone then the other person deserves the win. Next time, you will try to beat them! If you lose because you played terribly then it is your own fault, no need to be a little b*tch about it.
This is true for every sport but in tennis too, you don’t focus for a minute and you are 5 games behind. I had to learn how to concentrate and focus on every single point, even if it was a 3 hour match and I was exhausted.
This lady was saying how it is bad for her child to be in this stressful environment and she doesn’t want her to fail. While I completely understand how it might be terrifying for a parent to see their child fail, I think it helped me a lot to learn how to handle losses or so called “failures”. I learned that I can bounce back from those and come back stronger or I can give up. I had to learn to stay positive and optimistic even after a horrid match loss, learn from my mistakes, get back on the court the next day and work harder.
7. Healthy Lifestyle
Playing a sport and being active made me pay attention to what I feed my body. It motivated me to stay away from smoking and unnecessary consumption of junk food and soda. I always lived an active lifestyle and even now that I am done with my college carrier this won’t change.
8. Confidence & Comfort Zone
I used to be so shy and high on anxiety that I was scared to go out on the street. My parents threw me into deep water and I had to learn how to “swim”. Being challenged all the time forced me to step out of my comfort zone because I had no other choice. I faced opponents that I was terrified of, but I had to show up and do my best. It was never easy, sometimes I froze on the court but I learned to fight my fears and got better and better at it with time.
Even though tennis is a pretty individual sport, at college it becomes a team sport. Being part of a team is hard, being around the same people almost 24/7 can be annoying as hell. We hated each other sometimes with my teammates, we had our arguments, but at the same time we learned to still fight for each other. Being on a team also taught me how to accept others as they are, no matter what country they are from or what their background or religion is.
10. Dedication & Commitment
It is so easy to quit something. Just say this is not working and forget about it. But to learn something as well as you can will take time, dedication and some serious commitment. I had practices when for 1.5 hours straight I was only practicing one shot. Boring? Yes! But I learned it. And it felt so great when I was able to count on that shot the next time.