Tennis, Anyone?

I love tennis! For me, it’s the greatest game ever invented. There’s always something to learn – always a new challenge – since every player you face on the other side of the net has a different set of strengths and weaknesses than the player you played before. Even playing the same player many times can prove challenging, since their game (like yours) is ever evolving.

The most important thing in tennis is keeping your eye on the ball. The photo you see above is of one of my favorite tennis players, Roger Federer. What strikes me every time I see it is the way Roger’s eye is literally fixed on the ball in front of him (he’s actually looking at it through the back of the tennis racket). His whole body looks relaxed (except for the arm holding the racket, in which every muscle is engaged), but there is utter calm on his facial features. You can see how in that moment there is nothing more important in his world than the small yellow object he is looking at.

I believe that Federer’s tenacity when it comes to keeping his eye on the ball could be a metaphor for life in general. Our culture today could probably best be described using one word: distracted. I wonder what would happen to the lives of people in America (and around the world, for that matter), if everyone started “keeping their eye on the ball”? You know what I’m talking about … what if husbands stopped letting their minds stray to other women, but instead focused all of their attention on their relationship with their wives? What if mothers stopped being so concerned about power or a paycheck (or even the size of their waistline) and started fixing their eyes on what their children really need from them? What if, instead of hunting for a better paying job, people in the workforce started putting all they are into the job they already have? What if kids stopped worrying about their popularity and actually focused on their studies?? (A novel concept, I know.)

I think tennis is a lot like life. In order to really be successful at it, you have to concentrate – and that means you have to know what’s important enough to concentrate on. In tennis it’s the ball. But many people think it’s the court they are aiming at or the location of their opponent, or maybe correct technique like turning sideways or bending one’s knees. These people are incorrect. Even though things like turning sideways are important, there is really only one important thing you must do on the tennis court and that’s to accurately see the object you are attempting to hit. Sure, form is important … and footwork … and reaction time … but without the eye fixed on the ball, none of those other things will matter.

So what’s distracting you? Are you concentrating on what’s important in your life, or are you distracted by the incidentals? What Roger Federer knows deep in his soul is that if he doesn’t watch the ball, his attempt at any shot will fail. He knows better than to let himself become distracted by the peripherals. We need to know that, too. When we concentrate our attention on things that are not the thing, we will not be able to meet our ultimate goals. It’s time we find out what’s really important, and then – above all – watch the ball!

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