Looking for some gift ideas for your tennis opponents? Here are a few that I guarantee will be appreciated, and the best part is, they don’t cost a penny!
1. Not Taking Care of your Body
This is a gift your opponent is sure to enjoy. She can count on you having an ailment that hinders your game – be it a blister, nagging pain in your shoulder, or no energy to chase down drop shots. Maybe you’ll feel fine at the beginning of the match and then slowly deteriorate, or maybe you’ll play well, winning the first set, before suddenly needing to retire, but either way your opponent will get the win and be very grateful for your thoughtful gift.
2. Not Warming Up Properly
Maybe your opponent isn’t expecting you to get him anything this year – after all, you’ve been working out and eating right for awhile now. You can surprise him with this one! This is a last-minute gift that you can still get out of the way before the match even begins. If you’ve put off your shopping until game day, don’t despair, even if the stores are closed, all you need to do is not warm up. It’s easy. Where you’d normally arrive at the court with enough time to do some dynamic stretching, shadow strokes and footwork, today you arrive no more than one minute before (or better yet – after!) your scheduled match and even suggest “first in” today to save time.
It’s well-known that proper warm-up is essential for preventing injury and also maximizing performance potential. By not warming up you’ll ensure your nerve pathways will fire sub-optimally and you’ll move and think a bit slower than usual which your opponent should appreciate. Plus, you’re increasing the chance you’ll injure yourself and have to retire, which would be even more generous.
And remember, warm-up is also a great time to get into a focused and relaxed state of mind for the game. So extra points if you drove like a madman, honked at a grandmother crossing the road and worked yourself into a frenzy on the way to the court. It’s much easier to lose when you’re in a poor mental state so this will really add to your gift.
3. Not Having a Game Plan
Not having a game plan can lead to all sorts of problems on your side of the court and is therefore a wonderful gift for your opponent. First, she’ll likely be able to dictate points, since you won’t have a clear strategy – who doesn’t love dictating points? It’s also very nice of you to not notice that her backhand is weak and let her hit forehands all day. And did I mention that not having a game plan can result in you being unfocused, stressed out and feeling completely helpless? A Gift that keeps on giving all match long.
4. Double Faulting
This one is a little obvious, but is there any nicer gift on the court than free points? Your opponent doesn’t have to lift a finger to win these points. Best gift ever.
5. Getting Upset About Double Faults
Oh wait, yes, this gift is actually better.
In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the fable of the goose and the golden eggs. In the story, a farmer has a goose that lays golden eggs. The farmer gets impatient waiting for the golden eggs and decides he wants all the eggs at once. But when he kills the goose and cuts it open he of course finds no eggs and now has no goose to produce them. Covey says that we must find a balance between production (eggs) and production capability (goose).
Double faulting is like giving your opponent a golden egg. Sure, that’s a nice gift. But an even nicer gift is giving him the goose. And that’s what you’ll be doing if you start getting upset with yourself after a double fault.
While you’re stewing over the double fault (or unforced error), you’re not focusing on the next point. Your confidence and belief in yourself go down, and if you get upset enough your body will release stress hormones which will tighten your muscles, reduce your coordination, and further cloud your judgement. Basically you’ll be exiting your focused, relaxed state and entering one of fear and frustration.
While this is by no means good news for you, it does make an excellent gift for your opponent. Not only did he get the one golden egg (your double fault), now he has the goose too (more double faults to come!). As a result of your new negativity and lack of focus, you’ll be making more unforced errors, serve faults and poor decisions. As you self-destruct he’ll be happily collecting his golden eggs.
Even if he doesn’t say it out loud, he’ll be thanking you in his head.
6. Concerning Yourself with the Opinions of Others
This is another gift that you can easily give at any point in the match – no advance planning required. You just have to keep your eye out for a good opportunity. Maybe a few friends show up to watch the match, or to play on the next court. This is perfect. Now, instead of focusing on your own game plan, you can start thinking about what those friends will think if you hit a winner, make an error, win the match, lose the match, or what outfit you’re wearing. These types of thoughts do two things:
- They can, like stewing over double faults, put us into fight or flight mode, as our nerves begin to get the better of us.
- They can prevent us from taking the right course of action in favour of the one that we believe will make us look better. This could mean either going for winners when we shouldn’t, or choosing “safe” shots to ensure we don’t miss and appear foolish (this is what I do – when I’m overly concerned with the outcome I become a pusher).
Your opponent will be able to capitalize on your distraction, fear, increased unforced errors or tentative shots and pull off the win. She’ll love this! Make sure you don’t give your friends any credit for this gift – you did this all on your own!
Oh, and even if no one’s watching, you can get the same effect by concerning yourself with your opponent’s opinion of you, not to mention your own! How handy! Just start saying things like this to yourself:
- He is never going to want to play with me again if I play this badly. I’m just wasting his time
- Did he think I cheated on that line call?
- Is he having fun? I hope so.
- Why is he suddenly so grumpy? What did I do?
- I can’t make a backhand to save my life.
- How can I be so bad at this when I work so hard at it?
- I’m the worst tennis player ever.
You get the idea. The opportunities for self judgement and recrimination in tennis are endless! Like shopping for a 5-year-old at a toy store. But don’t be too happy with yourself as you give your opponent this gift. You want to make sure to stay in a super negative state so that your opponent has the opportunity to use the gift and win. Choosing to a) reframe your attitude to one of appreciation over expectation, b) focus on the process, and c) even have a little bit of fun, might end your downward spiral, which would be inconsiderate.
7. Getting Angry Over Line Calls
Unless you’re on tour, arguing over line calls is futile. At least at my club, there’s no hawk-eye to tell you who’s right and who’s wrong, so why waste your energy and let those negative emotions creep (or barrel) their way in?
I’ll tell you why! Because this type of behaviour is a great gift for that tricky opponent on your list! Even if you’re struggling to find something to give her (you’re confident in your game, have a good attitude about mistakes, keep your ability and the game in perspective, stick to a solid game plan and stay focused on it even when others are watching), you can let your frustration about perceived cheating or poor eyesight get you down. This might just tip the balance in your opponents’ favour. Jackpot.
This list is by no means exhaustive. At every turn in tennis we can find ways to play sub-optimally, often without even realizing it. So stop agonizing over what to buy your tennis opponents this holiday season, it really couldn’t be easier.
On the flip-side, remember that your opponent will be looking for gifts she can give to you. You could help her out – maybe by making a few bad line calls, giving her exasperated looks when she makes mistakes or checking your watch during changeovers. Before the match you could make fun of her for having a warm-up routine – who does she think she is? Angelique Kerber? Your encouragement will go a long way to help secure your gifts.
Or, and this is what I recommend, you and your opponent could agree before the match to go out for a beer afterwards to celebrate the holidays. Then during the match you can just play your best tennis.
And wouldn’t this actually be the greatest gift to both of you?