How Tennis Prepares You for Adversity

April 22, 2020
Luke Helms on tennis court

[Written by Luke Helm, Head Men's and Women's Tennis Coach]

Well, Concordia University Texas Tennis squad, I hoped that by now we would be back on the court, talking about how to add topspin to forehands, how to poach at the net, or how to use the wind to our advantage. Instead, here we are, writing and reading and Zooming from home as the world changes before our eyes. It’s clear now that this pandemic is reshaping the world in significant ways, and I am sending this note as an encouragement for you all to remember while many things change, others stay the same.

The amount of change and disruption happening around us is staggering, and for many of us, the disruption we see in the outside world is mirrored by feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in ourselves. I want you all to know that I’m feeling it, too, as are your teammates, your families, your friends, your school — all of us.

Tennis Has Prepared You

But I also want to remind you that everything we’ve talked about during these past few years has been preparing you for the uncertain future we now share. The topspin, the poaching, the kick serves, even the ladders and sprints and conditioning — all of it has prepared you in some way.

The technical tennis knowledge has challenged you to learn new skills, to learn how to learn. The conditioning has challenged you to push yourself, to discover how resilient you are. The trips in the van have taught you what it means to build relationships and how to care for others in a storm. The breathing exercises have taught you how to control what you can control and to let go of the rest. And most of all, out in the pressure cooker, on the court by yourself, you have been challenged to discover the power of fighting for what you love.

So here is what I want you to remember: for all the craziness around us, for all the stress we feel inside, the lessons you all have been learning on the court are exactly the lessons you need to deal with this adversity.

For many of us, more adversity is likely ahead than there is behind. It’s going to be a tough road back to what we’ve known as normal for our country(ies), our neighbors and our families. We’re going to have to be quick to help those who need it and willing to ask for help when we do. But that is the nature of adversity; it challenges us to become better, smarter, more-adaptable versions of ourselves.

It may feel, at times, like the changes happen too fast, or too broadly, to keep up. As you or your friends or neighbors deal with grief or hardship, it may feel overwhelming. But do not forget — and let’s be quick to remind each other — this is exactly what we’ve always been preparing for.