Thursday, April 23, 2009
It's Not Easy Being Green
One reason I like to write about tennis drills is that when I start to collect my thoughts about a clinic or a game, it reveals a lot about life. Well, about my life anyway.
The drill I have in mind is called Red/Yellow/Green, and unlike “Dink,” this one is a drill I hate. Red/Yellow/Green is pretty simple. Two people are up at the net, and the pro feeds lobs. Your job is to call out a color as you’re going for the ball. Green is an easy overhead put away. Yellow is a bit more of a reach, but still, you’re in control. Red is a lob that you have to back up for; a ball you can get but it’s tricky and it leaves you off balance.
The point is this: if you name the shot as it’s coming over the net, you know what to do with it. Whether to be aggressive, where to hit it. Or whether your only option is to just do the best you can. Naming it gives you a plan.
I thought I hated this drill because of the naming part of it. I never wanted to commit to a color. What if I was wrong? But lately I’ve come to realize that I hate the drill because of the planning part. I detest making a plan.
Someone recently pointed this out to me about myself and at first I thought he was nuts. I’m really organized, I told him. He said, it’s not the same thing.
Once I absorbed this new information, a million things became clear. For example, I thought I hated to cook – I’ve thought this forever – but I realize now that I really just hate the planning that goes into a meal. Ditto for vacations and throwing parties. My family doesn’t go anywhere or do anything because I’m plan-impaired.
Here’s another revelation. When Gina and I are up at the net together, Laura the Tennis Pro will feed us each the exact same lob, one after another. But what Gina calls Yellow, I call Red. Meaning, each of us is going for a ball with precisely the same trajectory, but I feel like it’s going to be a huge effort to get it back, and she thinks it’s just a notch beyond easy. To say this sums up the differences in our personalities would be an understatement as vast as the last depression. (You can take that to mean ‘the Great economic’ or ‘my own psychological’…the analogy works either way.)
You would think that coming off the tennis court with an understanding of oneself as gloomy and plan-averse might be a bit of a downer. But Laura the Tennis Pro said something that put it in a different perspective. “The point isn’t to label the shot ‘correctly,’ the point is just to label how you perceive it.” Meaning, if all the overheads feel like Reds to me, that’s fine. Just play them accordingly. Do your best to get the ball over the net and then focus on getting yourself ready again.
I’ve actually found the whole thing liberating. I have a plan to follow, but I didn’t have to make it. All I have to do is notice what’s coming at me, and how I feel about it. Which, I have to admit, becomes a lot easier when you stop insisting that life is always supposed to feel Green.