I am fresh off a loss in the semi-finals of the Big Al’s Tennis Tournament. I was eliminated quickly from the 8.0 mixed doubles, but I was one step away from the finals in the Men’s 4.0 doubles. I believe this was my 5th time playing in the tournament and I always enjoy being part of a local sports event. Over the last several years, I have had less time to play tennis throughout the year, with my business requiring more time and my involvement in other sports/training(weightlifting, triathlons, etc.) Less hours on the court equals less confidence for me. It has been getting worse each year at tournament time. I am lucky to have played with a very good doubles partners, and this year we were able to squeak by and get into the semi-finals. The second set of a tough match came down to a tiebreaker. In the tense moments near the end of the match, I tightened up. I choked. I didn’t have the confidence in my serve and shots. I know some of you might be thinking, what’s up with this guy? He sets a personal worst in the 4th of July run and then he chokes in the tennis tournament. It’s not all bad news, I did set a PR in the 200M sprint at the OTC All Comer’s track meet recently. I just like to compete and I am not afraid to fail. This recent meltdown showed what limited preparation can do for you. It’s kind of like giving a speech without fully grasping the topic you are speaking of. It doesn’t just happen in the sports world, it can happen anywhere. Even though I tightened up at the end of the match, got frustrated, and even yelled, I really think competition is very important. Here is my reasoning for this line of thinking, even if I have a bitter taste in my mouth after losing.
- Competition will motivate you to train. While I choked in the tennis match from the lack of preparation and practice time, I did step up my time on the court in the month leading up to the tournament. I wanted to do well, but I ran out of time to improve. Earlier in the year, I was lacking goals. I didn’t have any key races planned or any weight training goals. My physical activity levels plummeted, my workouts were random, and I was without focus. I am someone who needs to have competitive events on my calendar and goals to reach to keep me serious about training. From my observation, the clients who have firm goals and events to train for usually have the most success. This is in comparison to those who have more general goals. Eventually, yearning for some new goals, I put myself through a mock powerlifting meet and decided I would train to improve my one rep max in the 3 major lifts (Deadlift, Bench Press, and Squat). This kick-started my training goals for the year. As far as tennis goes, if I would have had more tennis under my belt, I wouldn’t have gotten tight during crunch time. Preparation builds confidence. You won’t have to think about what to do in tense situations, you will just act. So sign up for an event and I will bet it motivates you to train.
- Competition can bring out the best in us. I’ll admit, it can sometimes bring out the worst in us, but that is a risk worth taking to see how much we can accomplish. We can find answers to questions, such as, what are we capable of? How close to perfection can we come? The Summer Olympics is a great example of a competition that can shed light on the pinnacle of human performance. How fast can a human run, or how high can we jump? Those are examples of questions that a major competition like this can answer. I used to run the old Ashland YMCA triathlon 5K course from time to time, to see where my running fitness level was at. No matter how hard I pushed myself, I never came close to matching my best race times in a 5K race. Competition brought me focus and increased my adrenaline levels, that when harnessed, can lead to my best performances. Do you want to truly know what you are capable of? Compete!
- Competition can teach you how to handle stress. It’s normal to feel increased levels of stress at a sports event. It gives us a chance to be in a stressful situation and learn to work through any anxiety. This is especially true with the bigger, longer, or more extreme events. I am going to admit one of my fears here, I am freaked out before every open water triathlon. I have an irrational fear of drowning when I am out in the middle of a lake. However, I refuse to give in to this fear and I continue to compete. I feel a major sense of victory every time I exit the water alive (luckily for me, that’s been every time so far!). When I do something that causes me fear and stress, and I work my way through it, I feel stronger in all facets of life. Public speaking doesn’t really seem all that bad after all, and that goes the same for other common fears. It can change your perspective on stress.
Those are three reasons for why I like to compete and I would recommend everyone to do so. If you are someone who doesn’t currently compete, think about signing up for a 5K or joining a recreational sports league. In fact, I just happen to be the race director of a 5K coming up in August that you can sign up for here. An added bonus to competing in sporting events is the number of great friends you will make. In some cases you may even become part of a rivalry, but even that can also be positive and can push you to new levels of achievement. It’s all in the way you look at it. So to reiterate what I said before, competition can give you focus in training, bring out your all time best performances, and help you tame your fears. Even though I am sitting here with a feeling of disappointment and a blank stare after my loss at the tennis tournament, in the back of my mind, I am already thinking about what my next competition will be.