Note: This post is Part 2 to my related post: “New Adventures on the Road to 4.5 Tennis,” which talks about how I’m trying to balance tennis training alongside my unexpected return to competitive roller skating in 2021.   

Here’s my new “story” for the next chapter in my Road to 4.5 Tennis, inspired by my amazing mentor in tennis and life, Bob Litwin.

I approach each practice/ match/ competition with deep gratitude.
With gratitude for the luxury of having space in my life to be playing tennis and skating. For my body being capable of doing what it does. For being part of communities that love these amazing sports so much. For the joy I feel on the court and at the rink. I practice gratitude every time I pull out my racquet or lace up my skates.

I play/skate free, like no one is watching.
I play with a loose arm, relaxed shoulders, and trust my swing. I “skate like a bird,” thinking of the feeling that can evoke in the kind little girl who gave me that compliment. I exude joy when I play tennis and skate because I love both so much.

No one person or event can impact my flow, joy, or focus.
Things flow through me. I don’t have time for nonsense that mattered when I was younger.

I work to improve, not prove. I’m doing this for me.
Because I LOVE the feeling of hitting a ball and the feeling of skating to music… the feeling when I find flow… the process of improvement. I love the sounds of a heavy topspin forehand, and I love the feel of a perfectly executed turn on four wheels synchronized with a partner. And while it’s meaningful to get compliments from fellow players/skaters or win medals, the people whose validation matters most to me — my family and closest friends — could truly care less about whether my serve reaches 110 MPH or how many gold medals I win. They love me for who I am, not for my achievements. So I need to stay focused on what makes brings me joy and meaning in the journey.

With coaches Ian Westermann and Emma Doyle

I am completely forgiving of myself for my inability to play/skate perfectly.
Before every practice/camp/match/competition, I accept that “P.J. as he is today is enough” and embrace being in the moment given where I am right now — even as I remain laser focused on improving. I recognize progress isn’t linear and I embrace inevitable training challenges as opportunities. I recognize improvement comes from struggle, challenges, and putting myself in challenging situations. “I never lose: I either win or I learn.” 

I find ease in moments of discomfort, both in training and in competition.
Pressure situations (matches, meets) are a laboratory for me where I can discover the stories that interfere with me being my best — and I welcome those stories as they help me get on a new pathway to growth and a better story of P.J.

My athletic achievements don’t define me.
I don’t need them for self-worth or validation. I am defined by my character, my values, how I treat others, the example I set, how I deal with adversity, how many others I help along the way, and so on. Trophies and medals end up in boxes. Family and friendships, human experiences, bonding, growth… These are the only things that ultimately matter. And that awareness keeps me balanced in life with the right priorities in check.

With some of the my friends, all met through tennis

Above all, I focus on the PERSON I want to be as an athlete.
Someone who exudes joy and love of his sport, who supports and lifts up other competitors on their journeys, is kind and gracious no matter what placement he gets, shrugs off mistakes like Federer/Nathan Chen, trains hard in an effort to do justice to the sports he loves so passionately, and contributes to efforts to give back and harness the power of sports to transform lives for the better.

Woud love to hear if any of these ideas resonate with you and your tennis story, fellow tennis fanatics. Let me know in the comments below!

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