I’m still having trouble killing people on the tennis court. Why is it so hard for me to be tough, show no mercy and clobber my opponents? It’s definitely not my temperament.

I subbed the other day in a doubles game in which I was the third strongest player. Numbers 1 and 4 were across the net, and my side took an early 5-0 lead. Number 4 was telling himself to do better after each missed point, and #1 seemed to be frustrated with his partner’s frequent hits into the net. So I felt sorry for both of them. When the score grew to 5-4, and I had caused many of the errors, I knew that on a subconscious level, I was easing up and making my opponents feel better. Except now my partner was annoyed with ME and had started missing his own shots and making more errors than earlier.

We won the set 6-4, but I noticed how my energy level had gone down, when I saw how upset #1 and #4 were to be losing. Later on I told #1 how much I empathized with his exasperation. I told him it’s only a game, and that I know people who are dying—that’s something to take seriously. But #1 reminded me that when you play a sport, you should play to win. I reassured him that I want nothing more than to win against the stronger players I am now competing against.

The next day I read about Connor Fields, a 19-year-old BMX bike champion, and how in one race, “…He led that, too, at the beginning, but he continued to push harder, harder, harder, because he wanted to obtain the fastest lap time of the weekend. His mentality: “kill everybody” and “destroy the competition.” ” Now that’s what it takes to be a champion. Pushing, pushing pushing and taking no prisoners.

Tonight I played doubles opposite a friend who plays only to win, must win, is much better than I am and easily beat me last week in singles, 6-2, 6-2. I played as hard as I could, and my side took a 4-1 lead that slowly melted away to a tiebreaker. However I remembered the Connor Fields mentality, and this time I played as hard as I could and served for the match that my team won 7-5. I was pretty thrilled to have helped break my friend’s serve. I think he was surprised that I did well at that net, and in the rematch, my team won again, this time by a wide margin of 6-1.

I loved our victory. I felt very satisfied with this achievement. But unfortunately, knowing how important it is for my friend to win, I feel sorry for him now, as I write these words of success. I don’t feel sad that I won. I don’t have regrets that I won. I do feel badly for the guys I defeated, particularly when it seems so much more important to them than it is to me…Dumb!

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