'Be the ball', advised Tracy Austin American tennis star and commentator on Wimbledon last month. Tracy was quoting her former coach and mentor, Billie Jean King (no need for a bio tag for this famous lady).
It really got me thinking: ‘be the ball’ not ‘keep your eye on the ball’, or ‘only follow the ball’, but ‘be the ball’. I wrote it down and it’s popped into my head time and time again since. And I love it, I don’t know why though (beyond I like how it sounds), so I thought if I wrote a blog post about it, then maybe I could think it through and share it.
The tennis ball: where it flies to, how hard, how soft, how slanted, how high, how low, how much spin, how much bounce – the ball, where it goes and how it goes there, to win the points and ultimately the match. I know that tennis is about making it as difficult as possible for the other person to return the ball (disclaimer I don’t play myself and never have, ballet was my thing, but that’s for another day - is that 'be the music' maybe?). So, it makes absolute sense for each tennis player to be highly into, the ball.
So... what’s the ‘be the ball’ about? I think it might mean stay with the ball: channel your whole self into the ball, absolute focus and concentration for each and every time it comes to you, whether you are throwing it in the air before taking a serve or attempting to outwit your opposite player with a keen shot, or trying to return a shot sent to you. When you are the ball, there can be no other distractions, not the opposition or the competition or your team or your supports, not the crowd, the weather, the score, the racquet, the umpires, feelings and emotions, the inner voice of criticism and fear; the usual niggles like sweat, soreness, tightness, shoes pinching, hair and clothes not behaving, potential court slips, chalk dust, video checks, the ultimate end game objective to win.
I believe ‘I am the ball’ when I am in flow, concentrating and focused. Nothing can distract me, I might even forget to eat and time just seems to pass by, quite sweetly. So, thank you tennis stars, ‘Be the Ball’ is my new mantra for when I am distracted and not getting to the work that is in front of me, or I am doing what I love like reading outside in a favourite chair and thoughts keep interrupting – ‘Be the Ball’, perfect, challenging and just right.
What mantra do you use to help you get back to what you really want to be doing at any one point in time? (by the way, it is totally okay if you hate mantras and never ever use them, just ignore this question if so).
Anne Marie Crowley is a Coach and Trainer in behavioural change: ‘a heart that listens’ to help clarify what behaviour you, your team or organisation, want to change; then supports you in achieving the very change that will make all the difference to your whole world.
Read more on her website: www.amcrowleycoaching.com