8 Things Tennis has taught me for my Life and my Career

Updated: Apr 17, 2019

by Katrin Sturm

The Australian Open just came to an end and I had the pleasure to spend two days in Melbourne Park, where this fascinating sport event takes place.

Some of you might know that I have been a vivid tennis player myself since my childhood. So it was even more special for me to see the big players in the tennis world live, watch them train and learn from them.

Spending 2 inspiring days at the Australian Open 2019 in Melbourne

It brought up some good and bad memories in me and made me think about what tennis has personally taught me for my own life and career.

Today I want to share some of those things with you. So here we go:

1) Be proactive. Nobody has ever won any bigger tournament or Grand Slam by not practising and simply returning the ball safely into the other side of the court.

Try new things. Adjust. Leave your comfort zone. Come forward and risk that serve and volley. Don't compare yourself with the less good players, but the better ones. What does it take to reach their level - your next level? What do they do in order to become and stay successful? Who inspires you? And why? Paint your vision, make a plan and execute on it.

2) Be in the present moment. Tennis is also known as a mind game for a reason. It takes full focus in the present moment in order to perform well. And so it does in life.

Still thinking about the first set (that you cannot change anyway anymore) while you are already playing the second set does not get you very far. So it is a waste of time and energy to think about a potential third set and the consequences of it - as you might not even get there while your mind is busy and distracted in the very present moment.

Life happens while you are busy making other plans they say for a reason. So be present, focus on getting one thing done at a time and drop that multi-tasking trend. No matter the distractions (which is often easier said than done).

Life happens while you are busy making other plans.

3) Life is a rollercoaster. Emotional blockages, physical injuries, different circumstances on the court like wind, sun or noisy spectators? Losing your focus during one of the most important points in the match?

You can play your best possible game during the first set, completely lose your momentum in the second one and then come back in the third set eventually winning the match. This is tennis. And this is life.

Some people try to chase happiness like it is an end goal. But happiness lies in the moment and in aligning with your personal values. There is always going to be ups and downs in life. And without the bad days, we would not be able to appreciate the good days anymore.

Life happens outside your comfort zone.

Having a bad day today? Upset about something that has not worked out as wished or planned? Still some way to go? Look back on where you have come from and where you are today compared to one year or five years ago to keep you going.

Be grateful for what you have right now. And hang in there.

4) Fight until the bitter end. If you are are 2:5 down in that third set, it does NOT mean that the game is already over. Although everybody else might assume it. Keep fighting!

Just because you had a couple of bad months in sales - don't worry, the fiscal year has some more months waiting for you to make up for it and still reach your target.

5) Do what you love. Because if you truly love what you do, you are going to be successful. Ever seen one of the big players posting on social media that their holidays are over and that they are sad to go back to "work" as the new season starts? It's all about Djokovic's passion for the sport that keeps him going to constantly work hard to stay on top of the game.

"What makes your heart sing"as Steven Jobs liked to ask? Do you love what you do? Is it something you are truly passionate about? Do you honour your true values in life? Not sure if you can be successful with what you would love to do? Do you try to find excuses?

6) It takes the right mindset. Before a match, the moment you walk on court to how you you prepare for the next season. Just because you are playing the number 1 seed based on previous results and predictions, it does not mean that this player will play better than you and is going to win today.

We have seen that with Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 21 year old Greek player, who kicked the legend Roger Federer out of the Australian Open.

Myself in action on the tennis court in the final of an Irish tournament
My fighter spirit in action during an Irish tennis tournament

Not starting with the most successful track record or an advantageous background? You don't have the same amount of experience or the same age as others?

It does not matter! You can still make up for it. Where there is a will, there is a way I truly believe.

I was almost not accepted for the International Business double degree programme I picked as my first choice.

I was told that my previous maths results are not sufficient enough and will thus not be able to even make it through the first semester.

After a rather naive but determined "well, let's see..." response during our assessment day for this restricted course of only 15 students entering each year, they unexpectedly decided to give me a chance and accepted me.

And yes, it did take me three attempts to pass this challenging maths exam - and even with a remarkable B in the end. This period has been one of the toughest times in my life for me when looking back.

However, all the effort and pain I had to go through to achieve this allowed me to grow and made me a better person in the end. It is all thanks to my fighter spirit that I developed on the tennis court from early on in life. I would not be where I am today without it.

7) It's ok to make mistakes. This has been a big one for me (and still is). Just because of one single mistake, the game is not over yet. You are not judged on one single ball rally but rather your consistency and on how you perform throughout two or three sets, a complete tournament, a season and even your complete career is important - on and off court. It's all about your brand.

Nobody is perfect, we are all humans in the end.

Even Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams do make mistakes in their matches, are struggling with injuries and emotions and they are still the top players in the world and have an amazing brand. Nobody is perfect, we are all humans in the end!

So let's all try let go of that little perfectionist we have inside us that is constantly afraid of being judged.

8) It's all about the right balance of body and mind. Just like on the tennis court, it's the mind that tells the body what to do in the end. And if your whole system is out of balance, you will not be able to perform well. In tennis, your job or anything else in life.

It's important to give your body and brain a break in our busy lives, especially when we sit in an office all day while being constantly connected to the digital world that is becoming faster and faster. We all need to unplug at some stage in order to recharge again.

As only then you will be able to make it to the last round of your "very own Australian Open" and hold the "trophy" you have been preparing and working hard for in your hands. Whatever this one might be for you...


Katrin Sturm is the founder of The Best Possible You that focuses on personal and business growth.

Katrin is a renowned coach for individuals and corporates specialising in sales and leadership as well as career and personal development. She advises start-ups on their journey to become scale-ups. Katrin also runs retreats with yoga, hiking and mind coaching.

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