Inner game of tennis team builds character

Guest blog by Steven Fine, Social Studies Teacher and Tennis Coach

Eastern Wayne High School, Wayne County, NC

As a coach, I have the opportunity to model the six virtues to students outside my classroom.  I coach men’s and women’s J.V. Tennis.  I spend a great deal of practice time going over fundamentals, but I also talk about strong character.  I explain to the girls and boys that tennis is an individual sport, and 50% mental.  I explain that they need to overcome their fear of losing to their opponent. If they don’t believe in themselves, they will never win.

When we arrived at an important match against a school we have never beat,  I got up to give my usual pre-match pep talk.  The captain of the team asked if she could give a speech instead.  Of course I said yes.  She began talking about her first year on the team. She said she was just learning how to play, she never won a match; but, as her coach, I never let her lower her head in defeat.  She said that in one match she was so overcome with fear of losing that she started crying.  She said I gave her words of encouragement and told her to be strong.  She then told the entire team to hold their heads up don’t let the fear of losing ruin their chance of winning.

I was in shock to see that my modeling and teaching strong character enabled this captain to develop it, too. The  team lost the match, but each player congratulated the others as they got back on the bus. There were no lowered heads, just words of encouragement from teammates.


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