By Lisa Thomas
In reading the three-page spread on Venus Williams in the August 28 New York Times, Sunday Styles section I learned a lot about her as a business woman, family person and as a world class competitor. I also got to thinking about my own game on and off the court. She is so accomplished and yet she continues to push the envelope, to learn new things and to take serious risks. Where many other athletes and celebrities rest on their past successes or at least linger in their comfort zones, Venus continues to put herself out there, willing to be judged and willing to take the public losses along with the wins. As a result of this she goes down in history as one of the best tennis players ever and just as important, she has a full and inspired life. Her risks have paid off.
My first response was to ask myself if I play it too safe. Have I become too comfortable and am now lacking the courage to put myself out there to possibly make mistakes or even fail, but as a result grow and have a more full and inspired life. As athletes we know we get better when we take on tough competition, when we are willing to listen to a coach tell us where we need to improve and are willing to learn from our losses. Perhaps we could apply some of that to our off court lives as well.
Two of her New York Times quotes in particular had me assessing the way I approach my life on and off the tennis court. The first, “Win pretty, win ugly, just win”, puts a little perspective on why she is so good at what she does. We spend way too much time and effort on the things that don’t matter. When we focus on things like how we look or how we are perceived we are creating constraints, putting limits on ourselves and by doing that maybe not reaching our true potential. If we focus on the goal and work hard to get there, regardless if it is ugly or pretty, then the rewards follow. I know I share this sentiment with my daughters but I wonder if I heed it enough myself.
The second quote that jumped out for me was, “You win with your feet. It looks easy and it’s not.” Obviously sound advice for us as players. How many times have you shanked a shot because your footwork is poor? I also took it as a reminder that even the basics are not easy. Life, like basic tennis skills requires the solid work on the fundamentals. But when we take shortcuts or are not prepared to do the hard work then we don’t get the results. Here is a tennis superstar recognizing that the basics are your foundation and without them we are not going to be the winners we can be.
You have to admire Venus, her longevity, her grace and her competitiveness, not to mention her tennis icon status. There is a reason for her success. Sure she has out of this world skill but she does a lot more than rely on these gifts. I for one have a new perspective on how I am moving forward both on and off the court now that I have been inspired one again by this tennis great.