What can tennis teach you about life?

A New York Times #1 bestselling author shares his thoughts on how playing the game of life with a trusted team mate can help you hit gold.  

Who is this trusted person in your life? It may be a romantic partner you chose to spend your life with, a business colleague who helps bring out the best in you or a best friend who always makes you see things clearer and achieve the best result across the board. The lesson and experience is different for all of us.

Richard Eyre is a bestselling author and tennis champion who has discovered a fascinating correlation between the game of tennis and the game of life. He believes his key principles will help you enjoy both games more and play both games better.

Games are made up of structured but unpredictable situations, with rules and variables and competition, and they produce wins and losses. This description fits life at least as well as it fits tennis. Even the terminology of tennis matches many of the most pivotal and defining words of life: love, faults, serve, receive, winners, challenges, holds. Read his insights here:

In tennis
Singles, they say, is a game of power, while doubles is a game of angles. There is so much more to the court than we usually use. If you diagram the ball paths in a typical match, it is amazing how the majority of shots are within a few degrees of the straight length of the court.

Most shots, particularly on shallow balls hit from inside the baseline, could be angled by another thirty or forty degrees and still land “in.” I used to play singles with a friend who had been a nationally ranked doubles player and who could also be a bit of a trash talker. “Let me introduce you to some parts of the court you haven’t met,” he would say. And he often did—not only on sharply angled volleys but also with shots from the baseline that landed both shallower and closer to the sideline than I was used to. I felt like I was on a string, jerked back and forth and playing half of the match racing to hit balls that were so sharply angled that I had to run out of the court to get them.

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Best friends can provide the support we need to gain perspective on life's obstacles

We call it “finding an angle,” and that is just what it is—sensing the spot in the opponent’s court where the angle (and the distance he has to travel) is maximized. In doubles, of course, those opportunities are magnified. The extra five feet of the doubles alley allows angles to increase by major proportions, and forty-five-degree-plus angles on groundstrokes can be common. And great doubles players angle some of their close-to-net volleys at almost ninety degrees!

Finding angles is a product of looking for them and practicing them until the fear of hitting wide is replaced by the love and anticipation of hitting sharp, angled winners.

Like the added width of a doubles court in tennis, the greater breadth of a married couple working in tandem and in teamwork opens up more opportunities and better angles

In life
So much of success in today’s world lies in finding a new way to do something, seeing a new need, grasping a new perspective, or discovering a new angle.

Doing everything the accepted, standard way is like hitting the ball down the center of the court every time. The alternative of looking constantly for angles and shortcuts and new paths is what generates progress (not to mention profits). Some call it “thinking out of the box” or “an outlier mentality.” 

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Couples have better opportunities for finding angles in life, says Richard Eyre

But whatever it is called, the ability to look for and find new approaches and new angles may be the most valuable skill there is in our rapid-change world. As in tennis, a couple—or a team—has greater opportunities for finding angles than a single person who essentially has a “smaller court.”

In good marriages, the goal is not to see how similar two people can be but rather to see how synergistically the unique skills of each can be brought together and used in a complementary way to produce more efficiency and greater potential.

Like the added width of a doubles court in tennis, the greater breadth of a married couple working in tandem and in teamwork opens up more opportunities and better angles.

Who is your partner in tennis (or life) who helps get the best out of you? Let us know in the comments section below.