Posts Tagged never give up

Two Drastically Different Mentalities

I recently played squash in fear and tennis with hope. The different results are stupefying, and you might guess that I lost the squash game and won the tennis contest. You are partly right. However the details are worth describing. Especially if there is a lesson here for life beyond the courts…

A month ago I had just hit squash balls with a new friend who is a serious squash player, but out of shape. We stopped after 30 minutes. It was my first time on a squash court in three years.

Then I saw a martial arts movie, The Best of the Best, in which USA coach James Earl Jones says things like: you must win all the time, not just some of the time or whenever. Winning is a life style that requires total dedication and concentration. Losers on the mat are losers in life.

The next day I played squash GAMES with my friend. I usually just hit on the court, not play games with points. But I won the first game 11-5. I noticed that when I was ahead, I was hoping the game would be over soon and that I wouldn’t blow it. I lost the next game 6-11. We took a break and talked. During the third game, I was ahead 7-2 and 9-4. But I was terrified that I was going to lose. Every time my opponent bounced the ball before serving, it was so deliberate and practiced and intense and serious, I was actually afraid. I could see that he was an experienced player. I was incredibly impatient again for the game to be over. I sure knew what it was like to have NO confidence, low self esteem, fear and self-disgust.

I remembered the words from the movie and repeated them in my head. “I want to win, you can do it.” But I was definitely scared and had no confidence that I would win…even with a five point lead. I certainly didn’t want to be a loser. But I lost anyway, 10-12…I made one more point, while the other guy made eight. It was a rout. It was ridiculous. My game was pathetic.

Later I told myself that it’s not so important, I was out of practice, I have played few games in my life, none in three years. Yatta, yatta, yatta. My rationalization included recalling that the Malaysia plane had been destroyed, there was fighting in Gaza, etc, etc. A squash game means nothing. I got over it…

Two days later I played tennis. Phil Farmer, an experienced player, had told me earlier that he always plays to win, because it’s “his game… it’s who he is.” I admired his determination to play well and not accept losing to his peers. I play my best, but when I lose, I often say that “It’s just a game.”

On the doubles court one set, I was the weakest player. As part of the round robin format that afternoon, first team to five games and ahead by two is the winner.

The first time I served in the set, we won easily. My serving has improved considerably, since I took a lesson a month ago. I also practiced serving for an hour the night before and for 15 minutes earlier the day of this match. My partner certainly deserves credit for putting away a number of the returns to my serve. At least what I sent out when serving didn’t come back as winners. To everyone’s surprise, our team took a 4-0 lead. I was giddy. Winning would be an upset. I even wanted a bagel.

Now I was serving again for the match…but we lost. Then we lost again and again and again. Score is 4-4. Tiebreak.

Our opponents took an early lead, I lost both my serves. Soon we were behind 1-5. But I have much more hope and optimism and confidence in tennis than in squash. I am known as the guy who “never gives up,” and I tell my partners that all the time. We came back to 3-6, and it was my turn to serve again. I wanted to win, though I did not believe we WOULD win. But I was going to give it all I had, do my best, make a real effort. It never even occurred to me that we were definitely going to lose or that I was afraid.

I served a fast ball (for me) right down the middle that skidded off the line for an ace. 4-6. My second serve was not returned. I think it was hit into the net. 5-6. I hadn’t choked. We were still in the game. Then we break the next point. It’s 6-6, then 6-7, 7-7, 8-7, 8-8, 9-8.

My turn to serve again. I don’t choke for the second time. My serve is not returned in the court. We win 10-8!

Who would have believed it? No one. My partner and I talked later about the changes in momentum…after all, we were ahead 4-0, then lost it to 4-4 and 1-5 in the tiebreak. Then something changed again. Why wasn’t I afraid? I don’t know. I do remember though that when I was serving at 3-6, I was unsure how to do the serving motion. It felt awkward, forced, the farthest rhythm from smooth and practiced.

But somehow it happened…even an ace down the “T.” I want to know how to do this in everyday life. How to come through when I need to. How to not be afraid or so scared that I am wishing it would end and be over, even if I am the loser, which is an awful feeling I don’t have hardly at all. I mean I lose all the time. I make mistakes every day. But the fear I felt in that squash game was painful.

During the hour of talk and drinks after the tennis match, it didn’t register emotionally. I was proud when one friend I played with earlier said he’d heard about my victory and told everyone that I had probably told my partner to “Never give up.” I like knowing that people think of me that way. It’s a good attitude, and it’s definitely one that is part of me.

A couple of hours later at home, when I was telling my wife about how my team won the set in the tiebreak, I was exuberant, excited and exhilarated. I felt happy. It was great. It didn’t matter a bit that my teams with different partners had lost three other sets that day as well.

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Astonishing America’s Cup Comeback

the Oracle catamaran that came back from behind

the Oracle catamaran that came back from behind

At least 30 years ago I hitchhiked a ride on the Coast Guard’s press boat to watch an America’s Cup race at Newport. Just showed my business card that stated I was a publisher. I didn’t really follow the races much until this year, when I became obsessed with the American team’s unbelievable comeback.

The USA/Oracle boat was down 1-8. The team had actually won three races, but it was penalized two wins for something illegal done by a crew member that the skipper and owners supposedly didn’t know about. Lose that team member…New Zealand needed just one more victory to reach the magic number of nine wins, and it could take the cup home.

By making adjustments to its boat, changing the on-board tactician and never giving up, America won the next three races. At 4-8 I bumped into the contest and was hooked. I followed it like a fanatic.

In the old days, you couldn’t see much from the shore and the TV broadcasts were either nonexistent or dismal events. People used to say watching a race was like watching grass grow. But these days there are on-board cameras and microphones, astonishing computer graphics, helicopter views. It’s thrilling.

Little by little, race by race, the Oracle team kept winning, and eventually it was a tie game. Guess who won?

You can see the first 18 races at this link. The 19th and final race is right here. Even if you are not a fan of these huge and unbelievably fast boats (50 mph), you should glimpse at what the coverage looks like these days.

riding the foils

riding the foils

And the boats are unlike anything from the old days. See the video above. They are catamarans that rise up out of the water and ride on ski-like runners called hydrofoils (foils) . Crewed by 11, the AC72 catamaran is a lightweight speedster that measures in at 72 feet long by 46 feet wide and weighs 13,000 pounds. The AC72 is powered by a wing sail that stands 131 feet tall and covers 2,798 square feet in area.

The dimensions add up to an athletic yacht that’s long and light, wide and stable, and possesses incredible speed potential. When the windspeed hits 18 knots, the AC72 sails at 35 knots (40 mph).

When the boatspeed reaches 43 knots (50 mph), a speed easily achieved off the wind, the catamaran is capable of sailing its 72-foot length in a single second. By comparison, the sloops used in the 2007 America’s Cup had a top average speed of 12 knots, meaning they sailed their 80-foot length in four seconds.

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