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School of Sport: Game set and match.


Those are magic words, music to the ear even: “game, set and match”! Those are the words any tennis player longs and loves to hear.

“Game” is just one small part of it, necessary but short-lived. “Set” is stepping forward further, making a mark. “Match” is the ultimate, the goal, the end product. All three together are what brings the prize. We may reach “Game”, many of them even; we may also get “Set”, one or two maybe, but still they may not all be enough. It is “Match” that we want to hear.

As we have seen in a previous article, tennis may be about avoiding “love” but sport, including tennis, must always be in fact about love; we aim to help youngsters love their sport. In looking at that, we borrowed the ideas from a well-known biblical passage (1 Corinthians 13) to help us improve as sportspeople as well as people in everyday life and work.

Let us repeat: sport must always be about love and that same biblical passage highlights four key things that we must always do, based on love, if we are to succeed in sport and in life. Firstly, we are told that “Love always protects” and so too sport is always about protecting.

A love for sport will ensure that we will always, by all ways, protect the integrity of the game (and set and match), meaning we will ensure the right way of playing it is done right – if we do not, then the whole purpose of the game is lost.

Indeed, we will always be resolute in defence of the game, its rules and regulations, its standards and spirit. We will also always protect the dignity of opponents and officials, that they may also continue to love the sport (not the winning or the losing but the sport).

We will indeed always protect the respect required for all involved, plus the commitment and effort being put in by all involved, be they other players, coaches, supporters. If we love sport, we will always protect it.

Secondly, we learn that “Love always trusts” and so too sport is all about that crucial value of trust. As a team player, we must learn to trust our own ability, knowledge and fitness when pressure comes along as well as always trust our teammates in their different positions and roles; they must know that we have their back. We must also always trust the possibility of us achieving our goals; if our opponents can score three goals in one half, so can we. We must always trust the process required, the tactics prepared, the coach’s instructions and philosophy. Belief is crucial, in sport and life.

Trust means we are always looking for the best in each other.

Thirdly, we are advised that “Love always hopes” and that means we are looking for the best in every opportunity. “Hope” means we are always looking forward, never back. What has passed has passed and can be forgotten; there is still hope for the future. There is still a chance.

A striker will always hope for another opportunity, for that will definitely bring a goal next time. We must instil such hope in our players while they are young.

Fourthly, we are reminded that “Love always perseveres”, not surprisingly, because if we love something then it is worth doing everything possible for it, no matter the difficulty, the obstacles or the doubts.

We learn not to give in when we play sport so that we will persevere in life; love for sport will mean we always persevere. We always keep going to the very end, until there is no more time or energy or opportunity. Perseverance comes when we see the finishing line, the goal, the coach, the team – when we have the combination of protecting, trusting and hoping behind us, all deriving from a love within us.

There is a Latin phrase which serves as a motto for many – “Semper Sublime” which could be loosely translated as “Always Higher”. We must always be looking to go higher, further, to achieve the ultimate “Game, set and match”. “Game” means we are prepared to give it a go – always.

“Set” means we must be ready, must set the standard higher and set the true perspective. “Match” means we must find the right match, in terms of positions, strengths, personalities. Tennis matches can sometimes last a very long time, expending massive amounts of effort. The winner though will be the one who always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres – the one who loves the sport. Don’t you just love it?

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