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D is for Dedication
by Aimee C. Kimball, PhD
Paddle is just a hobby, right? It’s just something you do to get fresh air, meet people, and maybe to get out of the house. The problem is, when you treat it as a hobby, it’s hard to then expect to play your best. Anyone looking to perform to their potential needs to be dedicated to their sport. This article is for team captains and individuals who want to take their performance to the next level.
Captains: Get on the Same Page
Athletes participate in sport for many different reasons. While individuals’ rationale for playing might differ, in order to be successful the whole team needs to be working towards the same goals. The first way to develop more committed athletes is to make sure they are all on the same page with what the team is trying to accomplish. Open and honest communication about team goals and about each individual’s contribution to the team’s mission is essential. You can hold a team meeting at the start of each season to discuss the following questions:
1. What do we strive to accomplish? How do we accomplish this?
2. What drives us to be better? How does our motivation help us to reach our goals?
3. What do you enjoy about paddle? How can we find balance between your enjoyment and what the team is trying to accomplish?
When members of a team have a common goal, they will begin to demonstrate a greater dedication to their sport and team. Another way you can solidify this commitment is to create expectations for all team members (Ex: trying their hardest to win, giving 3 days notice if they can’t make a match, having a positive attitude). By having the team create expectations, members know that if they mentally give up in the second set or if they wait until the day of a match to tell you the can’t come, they know they aren’t just letting themselves down, they are also letting the whole team down.
Individuals: Dedication Starts with Motivation
Ultimately individual dedication hinges on individual motivation. The athletes who often demonstrate the most dedication are those who work to see themselves improve. If you fall into the category of “I just play for fun”, think how much more fun you’d be having if you realize you are getting better, you make amazing shots seem simple, and you beat teams you never have before. You do not have to make your life all about paddle in order to see improvement; you just have to do a little bit more than you are now. Maybe you don’t have time to practice, but you may be able to read the latest articles in Platform Tennis Magazine or watch an instructional video on the APTA website. Sometimes, even just setting specific goals with your partner before a match can help you to become more dedicated to doing your best. By telling your partner, “I am going to hustle back on every lob” you become more accountable for doing so, thus becoming more committed to playing hard.
Someone once told me that “Dedication is when you are bent over, drenched in sweat, just about to pass out, and then you smile.” I think there’s some truth in the idea that dedication is about pushing your limits and still enjoying the process. If you can get yourself and your team to do that, you know they have the dedication necessary to succeed.
Make it Great!
About Aimee C Kimball, PhD:
Dr. Aimee C. Kimball is the Director of Mental Training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Sports Medicine. She received a PhD from the University of Tennessee where she specialized in sport psychology. She is an Association of Applied Sport Psychology Certified Consultant, and is a member of the American Psychological Association, the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology Registry, the USA Swimming Sports Medicine Network, and the NCAA Speakers Bureau. As a Mental Training Consultant, Dr. Kimball has worked with professional, collegiate, high school, recreational, and youth athletes in a variety of sports, and assists the Pittsburgh Steelers in analyzing potential draft picks and the Pittsburgh Penguins in developing their players. She has been a featured speaker at conferences across the nation and has appeared in numerous media outlets across the country. Currently, Dr. Kimball works with athletes, coaches, corporate leaders, and other performers to assist them in achieving success in sport and life. (412-432-3777; firstname.lastname@example.org)