The following post recaps one of the best moments of my life. I plan on revisiting this post every once in a while for as long as I live. The post is long because I don’t want to forget all the moments of what transpired as I grow older and lose my memory.
At the beginning of the season, nobody gave us a chance. We were misfits who hailed from all over the world: El Salvador, Brazil, Tunisia, Mexico, and America. Our captain went two and six last year and didn’t even make the playoffs. When you miss the playoffs, that’s usually a sign you will miss the playoffs again since good players tend to join only winning teams.
Nobody gave us a chance because nobody gave me a chance. I had asked my old tennis club whether I could join, and they said “no” because I was not a member. That’s bullshit though because they recruited a non-member ringer to play for them mid-way through the season! One of the main reasons why the captain didn’t let me join is because I was better than him. If I played it meant that he’d have less of a chance of playing as was the case when we were teammates last year. In the playoffs last year, he put himself before a better player and lost in the first round. Way to put yourself before the team!
I then asked my Realtor at the time whether I could join his team. He wasn’t enthusiastic at all and said, “Well, there are a lot of long standing members who want to play, and I want to play too.” It wasn’t as if I was asking to come and play every match. I just wanted to contribute if they needed me. My Realtor, who stood to make tens of thousands of dollars in commission if he sold my house wasn’t even on board. If you are not in your client’s corner, you’re out in my book. I fired him a month later and when I eventually sell my house in three years time, I’ll use someone else.
I then asked another team from a public park whether I could join. The captain was an affable fellow who seemed in need of some good players since he lost 2-3 in the City Championships the year before. He responded in e-mail that his team was full of long-time members, but he at least thanked me for my inquiry. This captain was very nice, and I could understand since they did have a strong team with a consistent core group of teammates. I saved his rejection e-mail in my archives.
Finally, I asked my current captain, whom I didn’t know, whether I could join his losing team. He welcomed me with OPEN arms and invited me to practice with his smorgasbord of players. At last! I found a team I could call home. All I wanted to do was practice, compete, and help out where I could. Not it was time to develop some chemistry and figure out a way to win.
TIME FOR REDEMPTION
I am one of the most fierce competitors you will ever face. If you challenge me to a tennis match, I plan to wear you down until you break your ankles and cry Uncle. This is my battle mode mindset and I will let you know through my constant “Come ons!” and other pick-me-ups I’ll shout through the match. After we have a long point, I will not hold my waist and keel over, but spring back to the baseline ready to receive or serve.
There’s something about overcoming the naysayers which feels so good. I LOVE the naysayers! I seek them out all the time just to purposefully get me pumped up! On Financial Samurai, I sometimes write articles that make things look difficult to most people, including myself. People get fired up saying I suck, I can’t do it, my calculations are wrong, yada, yada, yada. As a result, I get fired up to figure out how to make it happen.
For your reference, each league match consists five individual matches consisting of two singles and three doubles. Whichever team wins three individual matches first, wins the overall match. The overall match can be won with three doubles victories and zero singles victories, two singles victories and one doubles victory and so forth.
Redemption #1: The first match of the season was played at an indoor private club. Nice place except for the fact that it was my Realtor’s team who didn’t even speak up for me at the beginning of the season. My doubles partner and I matched up with my Realtor and his partner and split sets. It all came down to the 10 point tie-breaker. The overall team match was all tied up 2-2 and whoever won the tie-breaker would bring home the team victory! We got off to a quick 2-0 start and ended up ROLLING them 10-3 as they missed overhead after overhead. My Realtor choked so good he slammed his racket on the ground, screamed, and stormed away!
Redemption #2: It was now time to battle my old club, whose captain had also rejected me because he wanted to play. Funny thing is, the captain didn’t even bother to show up to compete because he was scared. We ended up crushing them 5-0 overall! What’s better is that my partner and I battled my old partner, who ditched me for a new partner last season even though we had just won two victories! Granted, his new partner was pretty good, but you DON’T leave your teammate hanging in the middle of the season. It was 4-4 in the third and my old partner was serving. We broke him and I served it out for the win 6-4. To add insult to injury, my old club ended up not making the playoffs because of our 5-0 team sweep! They missed out by literally one individual match. I felt bad for them, but only for a second because I was reminded they recruited a non-member ringer to play for them, those cheaters.
REDEMPTION #3: PLAYOFF TIME!
The playoff format is single elimination between the top four teams. Winners of the first round battle each other for the City Championships. Because we won 5-0 against my old team, we moved up to the second seed by one set to take home court advantage at our dusty public park. One set! As a result, these very private club players had to come to our house to battle and boy were they uncomfortable!
Comments from opponents:
“Don’t you know it’s rude to walk behind our court when we are playing!?!” Yelled one of our private club opponents to some random person. I thought to myself, We’re in a public park for goodness sakes. The space is open to all.
“I can’t believe the courts are so close together!” Complained another opponent.
“Give me a line judge! Line judge!!!! $%$#!” Complained my opponent on our very second point of our match when he hit a lob that floated 5 miles an hour which I called out, because it was. I was ready to smash the ball with my forehand. I could understand if he hit an ace that was traveling at 110mph and I called it out. But, this was in slow motion and couldn’t be farther from the case!
“That is horrible sportsmanship! You are a cheater! Shame on you!” said another opponent who was injured and could not play to my teammate who called a couple balls out. It’s hard to tell from where we were watching. There are always contentious calls, but you don’t start insulting a player after he’s won a match. You just either shake hands and say “good match,” or walk away.
We eeked out a tight 3-2 win the first round against the team that won it all last year. We lost to this team 2-3 in the regular season but had now won with two singles victories and my doubles victory.
REDEMPTION #4: THE CITY CHAMPIONSHIPS
We were now in the City Championships after surviving our first round victory. It’s #1 seed vs. us #2 seed misfits at Golden Gate Park. The #1 seed crushed my Realtor’s team 5-0 in the other first playoff round. I have to admit it was good seeing my Realtor get blown out 2-6, 3-6 in his own double’s match. That is a weak effort and he should be thrown off his team for not putting up a better fight.
The #1 seed is now 9-0 and more pumped than ever. They have their core group of winners who went to the finals last year, as well as three new ringers they recruited from another winning team. We, on the other hand, lost two of our starters to vacation but were now 7-2! My own partner whom we went 7-0 up until now had his father’s birthday party to attend back East. Totally understandable, as family is always first. But when you only have eight players playing two singles and three doubles matches, losing two starters is BRUTAL!
It was unfortunate my partner booked a trip during our City Championship, however, none of us believed we’d make it to playoffs, let alone the City Championships! As a result, we had to scramble and figure out who would be my new partner. I decided to go with this power hitting, but highly erratic teammate with a 2-2 record.
My new partner and I scrambled to play 10 practice sets together before our weekend match. We played so much that I think I tore some ligaments in my serving shoulder and had to quit for a day. We knew we had a good shot at singles, so combining the strongest two doubles players was our only strategy to pull out a 3-2 victory. At this point, I was 8-0 (one win with one person, and seven wins with my main partner who is now on vacation).
All about line-ups
A part of competing in league tennis is putting out a good line-up. Some captains stack, where they put their worst players in #1 singles or #1 doubles and their best players in the #2 and #3 spot. Most important is to put a line-up that you think is a reflection of what the other team thinks your line-up will be. We call this “leveling,” in poker. It’s important to always think, “Does he know what I’m thinking of thinking of doing?”
We decided to flip our singles because we thought they’d flip their singles to give them a chance of winning at least one of their singles matches. With one singles victory, they could then win 2 out of 3 doubles matches and bring home the victory since they knew we were missing key players. If we flipped our singles and got who we wanted, then we’d increase our chances of winning both our singles and only have to win one doubles.
For doubles, we decided to play straight up because we thought they would think they’d need to win all three doubles to move forward. As such, stacking their doubles line-up would not be good enough for them because that would mean they might only win 2 of 3 doubles as their weaker team gets crushed by our strongest team. From my standpoint, I also thought if we are to be the best, we have to beat the best. Hence, we played straight up with me and my new partner at #1 doubles. If we could just win our match and have our singles players hold on, we’d be victorious!
My Doubles Finals Match
Our first singles won handily in 1.15 hour as expected. Our second and third doubles lost in straight sets as expected. We were now down 1-2 in the overall match score.
What was unexpected was that my partner and I won the first set 6-1! We got broken in our very first service game, but then won six games in a row. There was a big hiccup when I was serving at 5-1 to close out the set where we had literally six errors at the net resulting in me having to go through roughly 12 deuce points. Thankfully, we closed it out and wasted our opponent’s energy.
We had a horrible start to our second set, down 0-2. Still down 2-4, we saw our #1 singles player high five other spectators and learned of his 6-1, 6-0 ass who0ping! We immediately got inspired and started playing better, winning the next three games. At 4-4, we broke a very nervous serve. He double faulted twice in the windy conditions when he had game point to go up 5-4. It not only takes skill and endurance to play in the finals, it takes nerves of steel! It was now up to my erratic teammate to serve it out at 5-4.
After double faulting once, we are up 40-30 and on the verge of winning the biggest game of the season. We got into a long rally when they finally volley a mid-range return for my teammate to crush with his forehand for a winner. He has a tendency to stay back to my dismay, but so far so good. My teammate ended up smashing the supposed forehand winner straight to the back of the fence 25 feet beyond the baseline! My teammate proceeded to smash his racquet on the ground and violently hurl it at our own fence.
I couldn’t help but feel defeated inside as we let a crucial match point slip away. I hurried over to my partner, told him to brush it off, and slow things down. My words didn’t help much because we then proceeded to get broken and were now at 5-5. At this point, I’m thinking to myself, “FUCK! If we lose a tight one after rolling them 6-1 in the first, momentum will be on their side for a third set. Let’s destroy them NOW!“ By this time, a crowd of about 45 people were watching, hemming and hawing.
Immediately after blowing our 5-4 lead, I heard one obnoxious opponent spectator, who has a reputation for being the biggest dickhead yell, “How’s your doubles now? Nice choke!“ I was tempted to rush off the court and bash his head open with my racquet, but I remained calm. Now it was time to break our opponents and try again!
Our opponents were now tightening up, making errors all over the place. It was ad-out and the serves were coming in like cream puffs. Too bad, our returns were going back like cream puffs too because nobody wanted to make a mistake! At 30-40, a long rally ensued where I was scrambling like a maniac to retrieve all the balls. I finally darted from the front of the net on the left side all the way to the baseline of the right side and hit a forehand slice winner down the line!
In my triumph, I yelled, “That’s why we work out…………… once a month!!!!!!!!“ The scream was meant to 1) pump me up, 2) pump my partner up, 3) deflate our opponents by making them think we had endless energy to battle a third set, and 4) make fun of ourselves, 5) insult our opponents who were less in shape than us, that even by working out only once a month we’d still beat them, and 6) slap the heckler in the face. There were laughs from our supporters, some “oh mys” from ladies who supported the other team, and jeers. I didn’t give a shit. We were on the verge of winning and I wanted to deflate their spirit.
It was now my turn to serve out the match at 5-4. At this point, I was pumped. I believed I would serve well, and I believed we would win. Our opponents hadn’t yelled their own, “Come on!” in a while and I could see them tiring. Their eyes told me they had already given up playing two younger, faster, and stronger opponents. They were the favorites, after beating their first playoff opponent at #1 doubles 6-3, 6-2 and we were the underdogs who never played together.
In what seemed like a minute, I served my 5th first serve at 40-15 and we won!! Before our match, everybody was asking me where my partner was. ”How could Sam play with this new guy who he’s never played with before, and who has a record of only 2-2?” They’d all say. Our records are all online, complete with who we played with/against, and the final scores. Nobody was asking me now.
The Rubber Match
Now it all came down to our #2 singles player who just lost in a 2nd set tie-breaker after winning the first. I couldn’t watch because I was mentally exhausted from cheering too much. I also didn’t want to get in a fight with the dickhead heckler because he continued to talk shit. Normally, I would confront him and be prepared to fight, but after our emotional win and cheering for my teammate, I was exhausted.
I went all the way to the other side of the park to observe from a distance and relax. In thirty minutes, the set was over. Our singles player beat his opponent 6-3 and we were victorious!
Everybody from the other team congratulated us except for the one sore loser. The best was the opponent’s captain who came up to me and said, “Sam, I made a mistake of not having you on my team. Congratulations.” That was a class act as I saw him immediately walk out of the park when we first won to go cry. Another 2-3 loss in the City Championship is tough to bear.
My US Tennis Association league team became the San Francisco City Champs! We were the underdog by a 4:1 margin, we had lost to the #1 seed 2-3 in the regular seen, but we pulled it off!
HOW TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO SUCCEED
* Identify the naysayers. Whatever you do, there will be naysayers. In early retirement, we have the “Internet Retirement Police” who say we are not retired because of whatever reason. Could be because we are blogging, or using our online income to leave instead of our passive income. It could be because we do freelance work on the side. Whatever it is, there will be naysayers.
* Love and cherish the naysayers! I absolutely love, love, love all the hate and doubt that comes my way. It’s like eating Popeye’s spinach every time I hear people put me down! When we won the City Championship, my opponent said we will get crushed in districts. My opponent, the one who we crushed 6-1, 6-0 the first time we met, and 6-1, 7-5 in the championships with his new opponent. Love it!
* Seek out more doubters! If you don’t have enough people doubting you, go seek them out! Seek rejection! When your friends, family, and opponents all say you are special, you are going to be in for a world of hurt as you let your guard down. Being complacent in battle is the easiest way to lose.
* Put rejection in plain sight. Print out your rejection letters from college. Tape your rejection letters from your publisher onto your refrigerator door. Save your e-mails of rejection and revisit them every so often when you lack motivation. All season long, I reminded myself of the three rejections I had from the beginning of the season that fueled me to victory.
* Get under your opponent’s skin. In sports, you must possess skill, endurance, and mental fortitude to win. If something is missing, unless you are vastly more talented, you will lose. There are some people who play great during practice, but play like shit come game time. The reason is mental weakness. I try and be the most mentally intimidating opponent before I compete. I will look my opponents in the eyes and ask, “Are you ready to fight to the end?“ I make sure my opponents know that I will never give up, be it in sports or business. If they plan to take me on, they will have to work harder than they have ever worked before. And if the screw up, they will know it. Competitive sports make you a fighter in everything else that you do. Identify the mentally weak and plant seeds of doubt. “We are the underdogs and have nothing to lose,” I said as our opponent’s rubber match singles player walked by before starting their third set.
* Always ask, “What is the worst that can happen?” We tend to blow our failures out of proportion. The worst thing that could happen in this example is that we lose. It sucks to lose, but the training wasn’t for not. We made friends, improved our skills, and got in better shape. Unless bombs are flying over head, and zombies are waiting to snatch you in the night, things aren’t that bad.
EVERYTHING IS YIN YANG
The world has a funny way of evening things out. Just remember when you are at the top of the heap, you’ve only got one way to go but down! Don’t ever become complacent because someone will always be training to uppercut you out. Make a decision to retire gracefully before that time comes.
Winning the City Championships is the best sporting event feeling of my life. To win with a band of motley brothers and go through hardship and prove doubters wrong makes us friends forever. To actually go heads up against the naysayers and beat them to tears made the victory even more rewarding. No amount of money can buy this type of feeling. Victory has to be earned!
Readers, how do you find the motivation to kick your opponent’s ass?
Follow Up Readings:
Blogging will change your life for the better. If it wasn’t for blogging, I wouldn’t have gotten in shape. If I didn’t get in shape and keep myself accountable, I wouldn’t have gone 9-0 with three different partners. If I didn’t go 9-0 and stay in shape, we wouldn’t have won the City Championships because five of our matches were 3-2 victories (two singles and my doubles win). If I didn’t blog, I wouldn’t have written this 3,600 word journal entry for me to revisit when I’m old and gray.
You’re Rejected! How I Use Rejection To Motivate Me Every Single Day. Rejection is a wonderful, wonderful, thing. Without rejection, life would be so easy. We wouldn’t have to try as hard, and as a result, our work wouldn’t be as good. We’d never know what we are truly made of.