July 14, 2010

The Value of Perseverence

Perseverance is a virtue that enables athletes to never quit, no matter how great the adversity. Athletes must be willing to hang in there and keep trying long enough to see the fruits of their labor.

One of the best examples of perseverance I've seen was a college match played by Kent Kinnear. In my coaching career, I had seldom seen a player getting so dominated. His opponent, from the University of Tennessee, was playing so great that Kent managed only six sporadic points in the first set. In 25 short minutes, Kent lost 6-0.

It's not that he was playing poorly, but his opponent was pulling off a constant barrage of incredible shots. Kent was feeling outmatched. As he went down a service break in the second set, he shook his head in disgust and said, "I don't know what to do."

"You really only have two choices," I replied. "You can quit or keep trying. Believe in what you do best, and do your best to execute it."

When things are going poorly it is so hard to keep trying, but through perseverance, the competitor will gain courage.

Kent did somehow hang in long enough that day. It started with a few points, here and there, going right. Eventually, little by little, the momentum shifted. This frustrated his opponent, and, by the end of the match, a complete reversal had taken place. Kent won.

When he came off the court he said to me, "All I was trying to do was to do the small things as well as I could, such as making first serves and being in the proper position. When I was losing, it felt like I was sliding down the mountain ten yards at a time. Things were going so fast. It was discouraging. Climbing back into the matching was like moving back up the mountain one inch at a time. It was long and hard, but I'm glad I didn't quit."

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