The Big Break

I’ve sat court-side for much tennis racket abuse. Rackets smashed, stepped on, bitten, and thrown clear from the courts (in my mis-spent tennis youth I may have even participated once or twice). On the golf course I have witnessed a three-wood broken in two and then thrown into a nearby lake. In the squash box I’ve done my best to avoid flying graphite as a racket met its untimely demise upon the wall again and again and again (@thinksport may have been involved..). On the ice I’ve been moderately amused by the poor wisdom of slashing and high sticking the goal’s crossbar. I have worked with a ball player who’s bat had an affinity for meeting water jugs on a regular basis.

Baghdatis put on a formidable display of racket abuse to the amusement of Chris Fowler and onlooking Australian Open fans. I can hardly believe I’m commenting on such nonsense, but ESPN’s Aussie Open notes titled Players Rationalize Racket Rampages have me opening my big blog-mouth.  Sure it is somewhat cathartic, but is smashing a tennis racket really a bright idea for a player (bank account implications aside)?  I guess I have a few quick thoughts for consideration on the matter:

1. Does breaking a tennis racket improve you game? For every ten times you smash a tennis racket, how many times does it improve your play? If your answer is north of 50% of the time, perhaps it’s a bright idea. Honest reflection likely leaves you with odds of improved play not being one’s you would take to a casino.

2. Does misshaping your racket help your focus? When you step in to return the next serve is your focus filled with the yellow ball that is about to be fired at you or is it filled with thoughts like, “Wow, I’m a real $@#*&!%.”?

3. Along these same lines, do you feel good about yourself after a few good cracks of graphite? Are you sacrificing short term release for later shame (cue Slapshot: “All bad. You do that, you go to the box, you know. Two minutes by yourself, and you feel shame, you know.”)

Djokovic: “I’m not doing it as often, which is good for my coach, good news. But when I have a smash of the racket, smack of the racket, I usually feel relieved afterwards. I feel that the pressure is out. But a bit embarrassed, as well. So I try to hold my composure.”

4. It’s not easy to show racket wrecking restraint. Yet, each time you show restraint, it will be easier to maintain composure and focus during play in the future. A bit more restraint… see 1-3… yields better feelings, better focus, higher performance.

Jo-Willie’s dad has it right, “”My father told me all the time, if you broke the racket, I broke you. So I go easy with the racket.” Breaking a racket breaks you. The ESPN article had a lousy title. Read the player’s quotes closely there is little to suggest it is a bright idea. Athletic anger mismanagement is a momentary feel good release, good for the fans, good for ridiculing friends… lousy for good play and high performance. Take #4 as a challenge… energy and focus towards playing the game is a bright idea.

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