How to be present? What does it mean? It means that you are both in the moment and bigger than the moment at the same time. It means asserting what you want without being a jerk.
In a recent mixed match, the other team wanted to warmup with practice balls and use the match balls only at the start of the match. I objected. "I hit with practice balls all week", I said, "let’s use only the new balls – it’s the Rules". They acceded, knowing that I was right, but immediately twittered (or something like that) together: “he (me) is a jerk”.
Soon thereafter, I spun the racquet for serve/receive. We won the toss and, since all of my players (that includes me!) are schooled to receive first in 8.0 mixed, I surprised both myself and my partner by electing to serve first – I simply felt that it was important for me to show that I was taking charge from the outset. I held at love.
Recall that I had been labeled by the opponents as a jerk. Immediately, I began to dismantle this opinion by praising every good thing which they did (“great overhead from well behind the baseline!”; “way to fight back and win that game”) (I also praised my partner in a far louder voice whenever she did something well – this was fairly often). Now, they were facing a deadly combo: they were confused by the patterns of play and they were also confused by their assessment of me: nice guy or jerk? (At the start of the second set, they exchanged kisses – it seemed an act of desperation to me).
I also employed my “calling the score” tactic. As some of you know, I never call the score – the exception being when I am losing. We broke the guy to start the second set, but I immediately went down 0-30. I called the score. I aced the female opponent. After we had won the next three points, I calmly hit the balls to the other side of the net in a way that suggested “this is just way too easy.”
To be sure, they played perhaps the dumbest tactic over and over – from the baseline they got into rallies with me – I mean it’s a 4.0 woman and a 4.0 guy – I won about 29/30 of those points simply by staying in 3rd gear (with an occasional 4th gear approach) and varying (this was subconscious) the spin and height of my shots and waiting for them to either miss or do something even dumber (can you do something dumber than dumbest? yes) – attack my partner who was on top of the net with a drive from behind the baseline. By the end they couldn’t wait to get off of the court - they had given up: 6-3, 6-1 us.
What is to be learned from this? If you are going to assert yourself in a fair way, you must back it up at once with solid and unrelenting play.
Bob Schewior Director of Tennis
Bob Schewior has been the Director of Tennis at CRRC since 1985. His playing accomplishments include playing #1 at Rutgers University 1971-73. In 1988 and 1991, he was ranked in the Top 20 nationally in Men’s 35 and 40 Singles respectively as well as a #6 national ranking in Men’s 35 Doubles in 1988.View Profile