I captained 5 tennis leagues this year, which most people would describe as an exercise in torture. Rescheduling matches is a pain, and it’s hard to make everyone happy, but for the most part I enjoy it. I see it as an opportunity to be a sports psychologist.
One of the messages I try to instill is the idea that, just as we all have inner children (Sophie, for me) we also have an inner warrior. Granted, some warriors are more deeply buried and out of shape than others. For those players on the team, we have the Warrior in Training program (WIT). A good time to channel your inner warrior is when there is a crucial point, like serving at 30-40 at 3-3.
The levels of warriorism have evolved over the years. Last year I had an asthma attack during a singles match. I’d had a few of them before but I just assumed I was out of shape. But my friends saw that my lips turned blue and I was wheezing, so after the match they told me I was having an asthma attack and that I should have retired. It was this match that made me finally go to the doctor, which is how I found out that, in addition to allergies and exercise-induced asthma, I also have GERD.
For these reasons, I no longer play singles. But at the time, I just thought I needed an extra-strength dose of warriorism. I channeled my inner drill sergeant (we all have one of those, too) and started yelling at myself: soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam didn’t get to quit. They had to deal with fatigue and lack of sleep and mosquitos and rain and fear of getting killed. So what if you can’t breathe? So what if you’re losing? So what if you can’t move? You still have to finish the match!
My friends thought is was so funny that I used soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam for motivation that this became our new rally cry. Before a team mate got on the court, we would yell “jungles of Vietnam!” Later this got abbreviated to jungles for short. I even got my team mates pins to put on their tennis bags with the word JUNGLES on it in an army-looking font.
I also found some monkeys and apes, so I bought those, too. I would have preferred a variety of jungle animals, but it was pretty amazing that they sold apes and monkeys at all, with exactly 12 per pack–one for each team member. Even more amazing is that I was able to pick a monkey that represented each player. So then our rally cry became ape and monkey calls for those team members who can imitate them. I can’t so I still yell jungles.
The last level of warriorism is when you are in the trenches of the jungles of Vietnam. This would apply when you’ve lost the first set and are down match point in the second set. Or when you haven’t slept in over 24 hours and have to play at districts in the deciding match, which happened to me this past summer. Because it requires you to channel so deeply, this level should only be used in dire circumstances.
I remember at the end of that match, after mentally preparing myself for battle the entire day and spending a good amount of time in the trenches, I was shocked that we still ended up losing. Then I realized that in war, there are warriors on both sides, and half of them will lose. In fact, a bunch of warriors on the winning side will get killed, too. So it’s not a fail-proof strategy.
Still, if I’m going to be in the trenches, I’d rather be there with my warrior in charge than any other part.