As a perfectionist, I am always trying to improve my tennis game.  Recently, I went to tennis camp to give my game a boost.  I was placed in a group of similar level tennis players and I asked the instructor what else I could do to improve. He said, “You have a very strong all-round game. You win because you don’t make many errors and can move the ball around the court well.  But, you don’t seem to have much variety in your game.  You can hit slice and other shots but I don’t see them very often, making you very predictable with your hard and deep ground strokes. Why not mix it up?  How about hitting some junk or slime balls?”

A light bulb went off in my head and I thought WOW…  I have been so focused most of my tennis career and life in general on doing things the “RIGHT WAY” or doing things well that hitting a slime ball seems almost below me or cheap.  Thoughts of the ghosts from Ghost Busters who slime people came to mind.  Why would I want to use any sneaky shots when I can hit these gorgeous deep ground strokes?  At that moment, it made me realize that I had fallen into that trap of overlooking the obvious.  I have been so focused on doing things perfectly that I have forgotten I am playing a game.

The first step is giving up perfectionist behavior.  Accept that I am playing a game, and that the main goal at this stage in my life (as a middle aged athlete) is to enjoy the challenge.  This means that I need to accept I will be outplayed at times and will need to try new shots and take risks.  So, in my next match against my opponent in our group, I experimented with some slices, drop shots, junk shots, and whatever else I could throw at him.  He said those shots were tough to return …and I won the set fairly easily, with less effort!  Most importantly, it was invigorating, fun and playful!  I was amazed by the process and results.  Who knew?

Tennis has taught me so many things in my life.  The surprise benefit is that once I began managing my “derailer” of perfectionism, it allowed my strengths of being a risk taker and strong competitor to emerge.  This resembles one of the key points from this month’s reading, Why CEOs Fail, which is that everyone has weaknesses and the key to success is learning to manage them rather than be blindsided by them.  Working on my slime ball game is helping me to realize that the priority for me at this point in life is to keep challenging myself and enjoying the game – not to be perfect. Game on!



2 Responses to Slime Ball

  1. Robin says:


    I love your writing and vulnerability! I owe you an e-mail.

    With gratitude,

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