Robert Rubin, former Secretary of the Treasury from 1995 to 1999, had a piece in the Op-ed section of the NY Times on May 1, 2018. Entitled “Philosophy Pays Off”, he goes on to share what he learned as a greenhorn sophomore at Harvard College in the class of one Prof. Demos.
At the same time that I was processing Professor Demos’s class, one of the big ideas floating around coffeehouses in Cambridge, Mass., was existential philosophy. In time, I arrived at my own interpretation of that way of thinking. To me, existentialism is an internalized sense of perspective. I came to believe that on one hand, the present matters a great deal, but on the other hand, in the totality of space and time, the here and now becomes insignificant.
For me, embracing these two perspectives brought me a sense of calm in what were incredibly stressful situations.
So, how does all of this apply to winning tennis matches? My contention is that the top pros not only have an ability to play in the here-and-now, but they also have the perspective of not caring too much … this in spite of the fact that they are playing for extremely high stakes. Club players, on the other hand, play many matches as if they were life and death situations. With this level of self-manufactured stress, it’s no wonder that nearly all club players say that they are far better in practice than in matches. They lack the big picture.
Olga Warshaw, Chestnut Ridge’s new Director of High Performance Tennis and a former Top 100 player on the WTA Tour, is saying the same thing when she says:”I tried way too hard when I was out there on the Tour. It’s only now, with some perspective, that I can see how I could have done far better as a more relaxed player.”
What’s my point? Read some philosophy, smile at yourself and relax … you’ll play better and have more fun!