What sports can teach us by Lizl Kotz
Dear Ronan, Reeve, Rose and Ryder;
I am writing this letter from my hotel room in La Jolla, CA. Tomorrow I play in the semifinals and hope to advance to the finals. I have worked hard and feel prepared to play well. If I lose, it won’t be without a fight.
I want to tell each of you thank you for being brave and carrying on with your life while I am away. Thank you for sacrificing having me home so that I can pursue my tennis goals. Daddy deserves an enormous amount of credit for supporting me. When you marry someone, you don’t know the twists and turns life will present for your spouse. I am a lucky woman to have found someone who believes in love, commitment and the union of marriage.
Being separated from my family feels unnatural, because it is. A mother belongs with her babies. I have learned so many valuable life lessons through tennis and if I can pass some of these on to you, it slightly fills the empty space I feel when I am separated from you.
1. Develop your gifts
God gives each of us an area we can be excellent in. If you feel passionate about something, chances are you are also gifted in this area. Find a skill that brings you joy and spend time developing that skill. Our gifts can vary from being a great friend, singing a flawless song, being a strong student, the list goes on and on.
2. Don’t allow yesterday to take up too much of today
One of the biggest gifts tennis has returned to me is learning how to recover from loss, making adjustments and to try again. No one wins in life all of the time but if you can learn to recover from hardship and use what you have learned, you will be that much stronger for the next challenge that comes your way. In tennis, not dwelling on points lost allows you to focus all of your energy on the present point. Similarly in life, put reins on your thoughts, avoid spending too much time in the past or the future. It will make your present time that much more enjoyable.
3. Choose courage instead of reacting to fear
Pursuing your gift takes courage because you have to overcome the thought of “what if I am not good enough”. The reality is that you only fail if you are too afraid to try something. Don’t allow fear to run your life because it will if you allow it. Brene Brown nails it when she teaches: ”Vulnerability feels terrifying, and feels like it could be costly, but it’s never going to be as costly as getting to the end of your life and thinking 'what if I would have shown up?'"
4. Good things take time
Be willing to stick with the process. I am not very patient by nature but I have learned that good things take time. Choose your course in life wisely and then don’t waste energy second-guessing your course. Remember that getting something too easily or too soon makes victory less special.
5. Character-doing the right thing when no one is watching
Work on becoming excellent in your skill but don’t lose perspective on life. Only a fraction of athletes and artists will earn a living through their skill. Instead, value the character traits you gain while developing your skill. Your abilities may get you to the top but it is your character that will keep you there.
6. Beware of finding your identity in your performance
While I fully believe in pursuing excellence in your activities, I want to caution you against finding your identity in your gifts. Build your house on a stable foundation. For me, my faith is the foundation to my house. My family and friends are the walls and roof of my house. Tennis is the artwork on my walls. It surely brightens my day but I realize it can be destroyed due to injury or in time no longer match the theme of my home. People who find their identify in their sport or their jobs are left feeling empty when those fade away. I am going to get ahead of myself for a moment and talk to you about being a parent to an athlete or an artist. If you find yourself in this position someday, I want to caution you against caring too much about your child’s performance. As a parent it is exhilarating to watch your child excel but it can be a slippery slope. Your excitement for their skill can easily put unnecessary pressure on them. Just be a silent source of support for your child as they do something they love.
7. Character and class over glamour and style
Sport teaches respect for authority. We may not like rules but our world needs authority in place to keep order for the benefit of all. You may not agree with the umpire or your teacher but I expect you to not challenge authority. Our culture is struggling with this concept. Serena Williams is an unfortunate example of this. During a recent match, she refused to submit to authority because she didn’t like it, went on to threaten the umpire and it left her looking like a loser. Because she didn’t believe the rules should apply to her she took much away from her opponents hard-earned win.
8. The way you make someone feel last forever
Tennis has provided a way for me to see new places and meet new people. It has given me opportunities to show that I care. Winning sure feels good but knowing that you have had a positive effect on another human being is so much more worthwhile. Thank you for reading my entire letter and hanging with me while I teach you what I have learned thus far. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes I saw posted on Grandmammas computer. It is a good reminder to spend our time and efforts on things that are lasting.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you have said,
People will forget what you did,
But they will never forget the way you made them feel