Disappearing Act – Part 1, 2, 3

Mario, a seasoned player from the outskirts of Boston was in the battle of his tennis life in the semi-finals of his club championships. Unfortunately for Mario, things on the court were not going very well. He was losing quite decisively to an opponent he perceived to be inferior in playing talent and ability. Mario, not being a patient man by nature, was over-hitting and trying to force play on the court. He was anxious, pressing and rushing between points. He was additionally exasperated by the style of play of his opponent who in Mario’s estimation was doing nothing with the ball other than get it back in play. Things were getting a little bit ugly (negative self-talk, unsavory, not-so-subtle mutterings between points and during the changeovers, dropped racquets in disgust, etc.). It was not in any way Mario’s finest hour. But as events unfolded, it soon became his most memorable hour. At 2-6, 2-5 serving at 15 – 30, Mario mysteriously disappeared from the court. He was there very much present and then (poof) he was gone.

Mario had not wished to disappear. Truthfully, he was more wishful that his opponent would disappear, break a leg or befall some other match-ending calamity. Mario also had not anticipated disappearing. He had no prior experience of disappearing nor was there a family history of disappearance. So basically, Mario was totally unprepared for what was to follow.

As it turned out, Mario was thrust into an apparent time warp or parallel universe with the opportunity to play the seemingly same opponent in the seemingly same surroundings but at the start and not the conclusion of the match. Unfortunately, Mario did not see the opportunity in the opportunity and proceeded to fall into the same trap, frustration and result.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for Mario the disappearance and reappearance did not end with the first occurrence. Mario was forced to replay the match over and over again until?

So did Mario finally figure it out (“get it right”) and end his loop in time and/or existence?

He did and here is how he did it.

  1. He decided to tone down his desire to win. He would continue to care (but not as much). Instead, he refocused his energy and passion on the process and not the outcome.
  2. He at first grudgingly and then more freely acknowledged the skills of his opponent. He truly appreciated the ability of his opponent and embraced the challenge of competition with such a worthy adversary.
  3. He recognized the harmful impact of his negative behavior not only to his opponent and possible bystanders but also to his own personal psyche, confidence and ability to concentrate on the task at hand.
  4. He decided to better control the pace of play and tempo of the match by being more deliberate between points. He established a ritual prior to each serve to regain his composure and focus.
  5. He became more patient and more willing to extend the rally and stay in the point.
  6. He realized the need to do more than just keep the ball in play and became much more astute and skillful with time at recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities to close and attack the short ball.
  7. With time, he also began to recognize patterns of play and shot selection tendencies of his opponent and became much better at anticipating what shot to expect in each rally exchange.
  8. He decided not to “beat himself up”. He learned how to have fun and enjoy the process of competition.
  9. He became better at analyzing his weaknesses and made adjustments to his to technique.
  10. He learned how to “pump himself up” with positive affirmations (“You can do it Mario”).

So the match concluded. Mario shook hands with his opponent and graciously acknowledged his efforts (“I love you Man”). He collected all his stuff and packed his bag. All things seemed normal in the universe. He then headed to the parking lot to find his car (a new purchase and his pride and joy). He identified the car parked in his normal spot (angled across two spots) and then before his eyes, it “poof” disappeared. It appeared someone or something was playing with Mario in their own game of…

Steve Gallagher

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