Competitive Tennis: Should I Quit?

March 20, 2013 in Family life

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Shot of a tennis racket and two tennis balls o...

Shot of a tennis racket and two tennis balls on a court. Taken by myself of my racket. Intended for use in WikiProject Tennis Template. vlad § inger tlk 04:59, 18 June 2007 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It happens to me every summer.

I walk out on to the tennis court and warm-up with my opponent. As we’re rallying back and forth, I assess her ability and think to myself, “I’m gonna kick this woman’s butt today. 6-0, 6-0.”

Except that’s not what occurs. Sometimes I come close to winning, but very often I’m the one receiving the butt-kicking.

Do I have an over-inflated view of my tennis ability? Maybe. And is that such a bad thing?

And what about my kids? Is it harmful if they think they are better at a sport than they really are? Should I still encourage them to compete, even if they are disappointed at losing over and over again?

I’ve been asking myself these questions, as I prepare for the upcoming USTA tennis season. I’m wondering whether I should participate again. I’m not one to quit and if I make a commitment, I’m all in for the season. I preach the same rule to my kids: You must finish the season, no matter what.

But this year, maybe I should opt out. My doubt started to creep in the other day during my weekly tennis clinic. We were doing drills, as we always do, and keeping score. I was losing, and I was frustrated, mostly because I didn’t think I was playing that badly. I HATED to lose. I suppose most people do, but it bothered me more than usual that day. I was playing against the woman who is the co-captain of the team with me.

“I think I want to quit USTA,” I blurted out, mid-clinic.

“What?! No, you don’t. Of course you can’t quit. Besides, I’m not doing it alone.”

“No really, I insisted, “I think I really hate to compete. I’m not sure I’m meant to compete in tennis.”

The pro teaching us kept quiet at first. But then, as we were picking up the balls, he said to me, “you know, I quit tennis too for awhile. I burned out. I quit for three years before I picked up a racquet again.”

The thing is, I’m not sure this is burn-out. I’m questioning whether I actually ENJOY competitive tennis. It’s not just that I hate that feeling of losing, when I think I should be winning. I also dislike the feeling of pressure, which I feel much more personally as a singles player.

My co-captain suggested that maybe I should play doubles because I have a much stronger win record when I compete with a partner. But anyone who has played doubles with me knows that my major weakness is the net, and how I much prefer playing back at the baseline. Playing singles is what I love. I told her that I didn’t want to play doubles, but that I can’t seem to win at singles.

She then used the argument of my staying on our team so that I could continue to play with friends. She knew the social component was important to me. In fact, after playing tennis as a kid, I resumed playing tennis at age 40 because it was a social part of my day, and because it was good exercise. But, somehow I became involved in competitive tennis, and I’m not sure I want to stay there. Maybe I should go back to being a recreational clinic player, having fun during my lessons and enjoying the exercise. And maybe I should stop worrying about this and remind myself that I’m just plain fortunate to be able to play tennis at all. 

Tennis, like all individual sports, relies on having a strong mental game. If you’re weak in your head, you’re weak on the court too. That’s me. I show my frustration on the court, my opponent picks up on it, and I’m pretty much cooked after that. I know this is something I can work to improve, but again, I’m not sure I want to. 

I’ve seen it happen with my kids. They give their all to a sport and then they realize they don’t want to be part of a team anymore. They still like the sport, but don’t want to compete. And that’s just fine. I’ve let them figure this out on their own. I’ve let them discover what sport feels good to compete in and what sport does not.

All three of my boys tried and eventually dropped competing on soccer teams. They weeded themselves out, knowing that soccer just wasn’t for them. I’ve had another son drop competitive golf, even though he had talent that far surpassed his peers. He continued to play for fun, or go to the driving range, but he did not want to participate in any tournaments. We let it go, even though inside we were crushed that he wasn’t pursuing something that he was so good at.

As it turns out, that son is now on the high school golf team. He’s back at it, though his heart isn’t nearly as invested as it is with his other sport of choice, basketball. And yet, with a little encouragement from us, he’s participating on the team because we thought he should try competing again. I question whether that may be a parenting fail or something a Tiger Mom would do. But still, we’ve told him if he doesn’t want to join the team next year, he doesn’t have to. However, we thought the experience of being part of a school team — both for social reasons, as well as the pride of representing his school — would be a positive one.

I’m wondering now if I should approach tennis in the same way. Should I give competitive match play one more shot? Or should I walk away now, and protect myself from possible bruises to my ego? If I participate and do well, I can advance my rating and “move up” to the next level of competitive play. If I continue on my losing streak, I will remain where I am and feel like crap. I’ve got to decide if that’s a risk I’m willing to take. 

United States Tennis Association

United States Tennis Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia) SHOULD I COMPETE??


Please weigh in!! Should I stick with competitive tennis or not?? 

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Janine Huldie March 20, 2013 at 9:08 am

I totally think you have to sit long and hard and weigh the pros and cons. And maybe just maybe you are a bit burned out and need a rest, but truly not sure, but do know whatever you decide I think will be the right decision for you in the end.


ohboymom March 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I agree Janine — there is probably no wrong decision here…just a decision in general to be made.


Julie DeNeen March 20, 2013 at 9:17 am

This is such a hard topic! I never quite know when to push and when to let go…and when to step in so the child doesn’t get made fun of for being the worst on the team. There’s nothing I hate more.

But it sounds like you have a good handle on things!


ohboymom March 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I suppose I know what I’m going to do (give it one more shot), but after this year, depending on the outcome and my head, I may stop the competition part. I know just what you mean about pushing the kids too…such a hard thing to figure out!!


Cyndi March 20, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hmm…I played #1 singles tennis in high school. I didn’t in college. My senior year, I got my ass handed to me on my racket at one of our last tournaments and I had a John McEnroe moment. Not with the other player, but with myself. I’m embarrassed to say that out of frustration, I lashed out at myself with my racket and bruised my shin badly.
I haven’t played much since those days, even though I still love the game. I didn’t want it to take over my life.
I wanted to have fun and now when I go, I go with friends or my husband and we just have a little back and forth racket fun. LOL
I’m the same way with mountain biking. I love it and I’m good at it and people still tell me I should enter races. But, I love it for the feeling of being outside and having the wind in my face and the relaxation I feel while still trying out challenging trails. I don’t want to compete like I did in high school.
I realize I’m being no help here. LOL…I’m just relating my experience. I wanted to do sports as stress-relief and as a way to have some fun. It loses its fun-appeal – for me, at least – when I think about competing. I’m weird like that, I know.
I have two friends that ride with us sometimes and they’re so competitive…and I have started going without them. It’s no fun when you’re on the trail and you’re last up the hill and everyone’s waiting for you. And it’s not because I’m slow. It’s because everyone wants to be faster and get to the top first.
What about enjoying the ride and breathing the fresh air and taking a few rests along the way to chat a bit and listen to the birds?
I realize that’s probably such a “clark” thing to say. LOL


ohboymom March 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I know exactly what you’ve described here Cyndi and it’s very helpful to hear these thoughts from a fellow tennis-player! And no, you are not weird that the sport can lose appeal when you think about competing — that’s what I’m going through right now. Sometimes I think, “I’m too old to be worrying about this sh*t!! Thanks so much for these helpful comments, whether or not you are a “clark.” :)


Jessica Smock March 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Can you — as the pro said — take a “break” for a while, see if you miss it, and then go back, like the pro did? I was always terrible at tennis — I was practically laughed off the team in junior high — but it always seems to me like it’s so much of a mental game as well as a physical one. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but maybe your subconscious is telling you that you need a break. And then when you return, possibly your game would improve?


ohboymom March 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

That’s definitely a possibility and one I will consider…my only concern is I’ve made a commitment to my co-coach, who is also a friend. So I’m leaning towards my “break” after this season…thanks for your input!


Amy March 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I think that I would take the season off, but I tend to loose interest in things when I’m not enjoying them and then I can’t make myself keep doing it! But that’s just me.

I predict you will stick it out and give it your all. :)


Veronica March 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I think you can convince yourself of anything. Arguments for both sides. At the end of day does any of this matter? Life is too short and we only have one life to live…so stress about competition should not be part of your daily routine. Marriage and kids naturally bring stress to our lives. Tennis or quite frankly any physical activity is your outlet to release the stressors. What would it look like if you didn’t put the pressure on yourself? This same thought process could be a new part of how you approach not only competition but any challenges that you’re faced with. I love the response “I just don’t need to race to the top. How about just enjoying
being outdoors?” Just breathe and like you said, be thankful you can still play! Xo, V.


ohboymom March 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I had a feeling you’d chime in here…:) And, I like your thought about not putting pressure on myself, though I think that’s a hard thing to achieve when you’re playing USTA! Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere — at least not yet!


Cathy March 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Ok, here goes. My husband is the most competitive person in the world (don’t tell him I said that!) Well, he’s really the 3rd most competitive person. Number 1and 2 slots go to his parents, both ace tennis players. They taught their sons to be the best, and gave my husband lessons when he was only 5. Why am I telling you this? Because even at 55, with a bad back he’s still competitive within his age group and older. I think it’s that competitiveness that makes him play better, try harder and learn more about himself (mostly when he loses).

When we go to FL to visit my in-laws, I’ve watched my 84 y/o father-in-law play players even older than him, all still wanting to win.

The moral? Being competitive and hating to lose isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s ups your game, makes you feel good about yourself, and keeps you in there trying. Oh, by the way, the benefits of my in-laws playing all these years is that they can move around better than most people their age. But sorry, Emily, they met and married while juniors at Ohio State!:-)


ohboymom March 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I love hearing these accounts of other tennis players — it’s so helpful to me! I agree that hating to lose isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it makes me think that maybe that means I DO like to compete. If I didn’t hate losing, I wouldn’t care about the result and therefore wouldn’t make a good competitor. And by the way, I won’t hold it against your in-laws that they went to OSU…the fact that they still play tennis is wonderful! I hope I’m still out there in my 80s too…


Roshni March 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm

wow! It is a tough call! But, I also know that if you are continually frustrated by it and it’s building up a lot of negativity towards the sport, it may be good to step back just for a bit!! I totally don’t see you walking away from it though!! Good luck with whatever you decide!!


ohboymom March 20, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Thanks and you’re right, I won’t walk away completely because I love the sport too much. There’s a reason they call it a “lifelong” sport…once you start playing, you never truly want to stop.:)


Ruchira March 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I used to play tennis, but quit it cause of health issues. You have weighed out your pros and cons well, Emily.

wishing you luck in your decision!


Rich Rumple March 21, 2013 at 12:15 am

What do you want to do? Play or quit?

It really boils down to what your priority is in life. There comes a time when we either stop doing what we’re doing because we no longer enjoy it, or continue doing it and wonder why in the Hell we are. After my heart attack, I was told to give up working with venomous reptiles. I didn’t. Even though on blood thinner, a bite would have been fatal, I continued for a couple of years. Why? Because it wasn’t time for me to quit. I faced the danger because I enjoyed it. Then, one day, it hit me … “Why am I risking my life to do something that I’m now getting somewhat bored with?” It was then I decided to quit. I kept one for a long time, kind of as a token of past times, but when it recently died, I really felt a sigh of relief go through my body. I was suddenly free of the obligation and could use my time for other things.

You can’t quit before you’re ready to quit. What you’ve got to decide is does the challenge still make you look forward to playing, or has it become something you’d really rather no longer face. It’s a decision only you can make. The internal peace the proper decision will bring will be worth all the consideration you give it.


ohboymom March 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Thanks for these thoughts Rich! You are so right — I can’t quit before I’m ready and I do know I’m not ready. I also know I will never quit tennis entirely, though I may give up competing at some point. It sounds like your answer of when to quit came to you because you recognized you were bored with it and that’s definitely something I’m going to keep in mind. Thanks.


Kristi Campbell March 21, 2013 at 12:47 am

Ugh. I think you should ask yourself why you’re in the completive league in the first place. Is it because you feel like it makes you carve time to do what you have loved to do for ages? It it because you’re teaching your boys something?
Although I cannot tell you what you should do, and, in fact, shouldn’t even attempt to, I do think that you already know. Quitting vs. enjoying is a hard thing. I had to quit a 2-year old soccer thing to realize that I was there for the wrong reasons. I wanted my kid to be cool and play soccer, like I did. I wanted to be able to say that I had my 2-year old in soccer. In the end, he let me know that he wasn’t ready. That while he enjoyed the class, it was for the wrong reasons. Sure, he’s on the autism spectrum and the reasons we disagreed were likely related to that, but they were valid, none-the-less.

I hope you find the joy in tennis either way. Because having stuff that ours is amazing. No matter what it is. Unless it’s just drinking too much or something because then that would be bad. Capiche? Just realized I have no clue on how to spell “capiche” and that spell check is an a@@hole for not knowing either….


ohboymom March 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I have no idea how to spell Capiche either and my husband is half-Italian. But yes I agree, having stuff that ours IS amazing and that is a key point. I think I need to keep tennis in my life for that reason alone, whether I keep competing or not. Thanks for weighing in…it helps to hear other’s stories about themselves and their kids when it comes to this stuff…


Kristi Campbell March 21, 2013 at 12:49 am

ACH I just saw so many typos. Sorry. It’s 1AM here and I was not a proofreader when I should have been. Crap. Maybe I should quit! hahahah. But really. Other comment. Without typo assdipshitidiocies from moi.


Michelle Liew March 21, 2013 at 2:23 am

I think it’s thinking it through, and what works best for you. For me personally, the enjoyment is a little spoiled when passion becomes competition…but that might not be true for those who need the competitive push. It’s really what you are driven by in the end! Thanks, Emily!


Melanie Chisnall March 21, 2013 at 4:23 am

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with tennis. When I was around 11 my mom forced my brother and I to take tennis lessons. I hated it. It wasn’t fun for me at all. The coach shouted at me one day because he was having a bad day. Will never forget that. Silly, but still – for a shy 11 year old, not cool. I get why my mom did it – she wanted to boost our confidence, etc. And I’m grateful for that. I’m not grateful that I wasn’t allowed to quit when she could see how miserable I was. I think children should be allowed to try things, but be given the option to stop as well if it’s really not for them. The love part….I played social tennis during my final year of high school. Loved it. We had a coach, and she was awesome. She taught us how to play properly, but it was fun. Till this day, whenever we go on holiday, I’ll look for places that have tennis courts. So I am grateful to my mom for introducing me to tennis. I think it’s awesome that you’re still playing competitive tennis! Can’t give you advice on what to do, just to follow your heart on what feels good for you. Good luck! :)


ohboymom March 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Like you, the social part of tennis is my favorite part. And yes, the exercise too. And I agree that a good coach can make all the difference between loving and hating a sport. These were great comments – thanks!


Julia March 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Sounds like you would like permission to take a break, at least for a little while to see what it feels like. I say, Go for it! You can be active in other ways. It sounds like it’s become too much about winning and not about how much you love the game.

Looked at another way, you could ask yourself where you would like to be with tennis in 5 years. That will give you a clear idea of your priorities, and then you can think about what you want to do… Good luck!


ohboymom March 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm

That is an interesting way to look at tennis…I never thought about where I’d want to be in the future with it…how about the Old Ladies US Open?! :)


Stephanie @ Mommy, for real. March 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Wow, that is so tough! I suck at all sports, and so far it appears that at least my oldest child is following in my footsteps, so I am a total loss as to how that situation would feel to either of us. I was extremely competitive in vocal music in high school, but kind of shut down in college. You see, I hate to lose and would almost rather not play than lose. I know, poor sport, right? But on the other hand, the thrill of the “stakes” is part of what spurred me on and contributed to my love of performing. Awesomely helpful response, no? 😉


ohboymom March 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I guess I’m a poor sport too because I am the same way — would almost rather not play than lose. Believe it or not, your responses ARE helpful…it’s good to hear how other people deal with competition.


Dan Elliott October 22, 2013 at 6:53 am

Yep, going thru the same thing. Is tennis worth the aggregation? Sometimes it’s the drama caused by the other players on the league team your playing on that deters you and causes anguish, maybe its the decrease in your foot speed and decrease in your overall performance, maybe your eyes are not seeing the ball as well and your volleys suck, maybe you have played competitively when you were younger, and then you begin to lose and can’t seem to adjust to your new founded losing status, probably due to declined mobility due to age. There are many reasons for quitting or taking a sabbatical, each have their reasons for doing so. However, don’t let the actions of others cause you to quit, just change you hitting partners, maybe play twice a week vs four times a week, whatever floats your boat. Just an observation from a past collegiate player , past minor league circuit pro, now and old used up fart.


ohboymom October 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

Thanks for commenting…as it turned out, I didn’t quit, but changed teams and pros and ended up having the best season of my life. I was undefeated (in singles) until my last match of the season, so I’m glad I didn’t quit! Really appreciate your thoughts on this!


Dan Elliott October 22, 2013 at 9:47 am

People have different reasons for quitting, resting, taking a leave of absents, I was just pointing this out that your particular circumstance is one of many.


ohboymom October 22, 2013 at 10:08 am

And I appreciate it! My reason was partially frustration, but also wondering if I even enjoyed competing. After this past season, I realized that I do enjoy competing, just not losing.:)


Dan Elliott October 22, 2013 at 10:37 am

An old slam winner , cant remember who, once said, ” It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose , until you lose”. As for me , my temporary solution to deal with the frustration as you call it, is to cut back to 2 days a week playing and play with friends that place little value on winning, or better yet, where I don’t feel as much pressure to beat them . I will update you some day as to how this works out. It’s more of a
problem with those that played competitively for many years in their younger days, don’t you think?


ohboymom October 22, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Yes, I agree and also agree with your solution. I think everyone can experience burnout with a sport, and taking a break or cutting back seems to be the best remedy.


Dan Elliott October 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Competition is necessary to build character for the engaging of every day warfare, both socially and in your work place; and in some cases in your hobby/recreational involvements. However , there gets to be a point where maybe the torch of competition needs to be handed off to the young ones, those that are entering into the game of life building. Us players that are playing tennis in a recreational manner maybe should give it a break. Just food for thought. Over and out.


Beachmom September 30, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Ugh! I am really bummed right now. I am still at LIne 6 and I hate seeing other players who have just joined the team going up to Line 4, especially when they don’t play any better than I do.
I am so angry at this. I am not a great player, but I don’t belong at LIne 6. And unfortunately my partner is someone who is very hard to win with.
I am so angry about it that I am thinking about quitting and just being a sub.


ohboymom October 1, 2014 at 10:59 am

I understand your frustration. I ended up not quitting and having a great season, so you might want to try to switch partners and give it another try? Just a thought….


TennisMom November 14, 2016 at 9:22 am

I just came across this thread and was wondering what has happened since then. When you switched teams and coaches, did you move to a lower division? If you played in the same division, why would switching teams change anything? I assume you would still be playing against the same competition. I am going through something similar right now and questioning if I want to continue competitive tennis so I’m curious about how you resolved your dilemma…


ohboymom November 14, 2016 at 9:39 am

Happy to let you know what happened: I stuck with it. I didn’t quit the team and ended up having a great season that summer – won almost every singles match I played. I never moved up with my rating, but I was okay with that, because I was happy with how I played and also continued to play with my friends from the team. I’ve had up and down seasons since then, but I finally put the competition into perspective — I compete to win, yes, but I also compete because I love the game and if that means losing sometimes, I’m ok with that. I hope that helps!


TennisMom November 14, 2016 at 9:52 am

Your posting on Oct 22 (9:39am) says that you switched teams and coach?


ohboymom December 10, 2016 at 9:59 am

No, I’m with the same team…not sure what post you are referring to?


Anonymous April 2, 2017 at 7:47 pm

I know I’m late to the game, but just happened to come across this as I am feeling the same way you were. What’s funny, though, is that I’ve thought about quitting for YEARS, yet I still played. At one point I was on seven different teams at the same time- USTA and club. I guess maybe sometimes I enjoyed it, but as time has gone on I am enjoying it less and less. I feel pressure to win from some of the captains, there’s lots of drama/hatred/cheating among opponents, and it causes me anxiety. I think also my last couple matches in particular.. I played 3rd doubles and the other team stacked, so we played an extremely good team and didn’t have much of a chance; the last match my captain put me on court 1 w/ a weak partner (so we stacked this time), and we got destroyed. I keep trying to pump myself up to play again.. but I just can’t right now.. I think I’ve had it. For some reason I almost feel badly that I don’t want to do this anymore- (I’ve been playing competitively for, gosh, 21 years) I feel like I’m “giving up” or “being a failure” or something.. or I should somehow rise above the pressure, catiness, drama, etc., and not let it affect me, which I’ve been trying to do for years. The irony is that I think I am actually a nice player- skill-wise & attitude- I don’t choke matches, keep my cool, and play very consistently- but maybe having to do that all these years has just drained me.


ohboymom April 2, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I can totally understand getting burnt out. Since I wrote that post, I’ve had to take some temporary breaks from tennis for family reasons, so it sort of prevented me from completely burning out. Because those breaks were forced on me, I ended up missing it and going back to it. Perhaps try a break — whether for one season or even for a year and then see how you feel…? Bottom line is we shouldn’t keep playing and/or competing in a sport if we don’t enjoy it anymore…I wish you all the best as you decide what to do.


Terry Do April 12, 2017 at 7:11 pm

I just started seeing your post today and I am in the exact position. I have two boys and they are in sports. They say I shouldn’t quit but I have had enough. The love the game of tennis but the personalities here are so wrong. I am also tired of losing in matches . When I practice I seem to do fine but matches is another story. I would blame it on my partners. But then I think if I was good I wouldn’t have to depend on my partners so much. I also work… which means tennis practice with the team is with the single ladies at 8 on at night and limited weekend days.


Dianne February 15, 2018 at 6:41 am

I came to the realization of quitting for the year because being 65 years old, I had a serious injury pulling my tba and back problems.The other problem was that a member of our team always did lollipops and the opposing team bashed the ball back all the time and we lost….


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