#AskNick: What About Character?

Sports have been my entire life. In fact, I’ve been a teacher of tennis for nearly six decades. As in every other sport, technique and physical and mental conditionings are the primary object of a coach’s attention. But, sports should be more than just competition! Introductory sports should also be lessons in real life and character development.

Character is described in the dictionary as qualities of honesty, courage, or the like: integrity.

Sports in general, and more specifically tennis, teaches these qualities and more. Tennis, unlike many other sports, is fundamentally one-on-one. Every beginner receives lessons in losing because losing is common at the beginning of everyone’s competitive experience. Learning to accept these losses and making the necessary adjustments to reverse the trajectory is a primary experience in tennis and in life. It is the thoughtful, calculated determination to change a negative situation into a positive one that separates a winner from a loser: either on the tennis court or off!

Think about the athletes who decide to inject anabolic steroids into their bodies to improve their performance. It’s common knowledge that the long-term negative effects can be life threatening. But winning immediately is more important to them than what might happen in the hazy, distant future. Again, this is where character steps forward to crystalize this confusion. Winning and losing are fleeting conditions. Damaging your body and mind with injections will alter the quality of your entire life—sooner or later. And we don’t know whether it will be sooner or later. It’s frightening to think that steroid injections are just one of a large number of ways that you can damage your future. The use of or sale of drugs (either illegal or prescription), inactivity and obesity can all compromise your quality of life.

I ask all parents to consider the odds against their child making it into the Top 100 in the world. Under the very best of circumstances, (the best coaches; unlimited financial resources) the chances are slim. The rest of your child’s life is a far more important period to focus on. Adulthood, college, career, parenthood! Help your child develop his/her brand as someone who can be trusted, someone who is reliable and someone who will always choose the “high road.” It won’t go unnoticed! That well-developed character will help provide success in every aspect of your child’s life. And yes, someone of upstanding character will also make a great tennis player!

About Nick Bollettieri:
In 1978 Bollettieri founded the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, now known as IMG Academy, the first full-time tennis boarding school. He has coached 10 World No. 1 players including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Venus and Serena Williams, Boris Becker and Maria Sharapova. Along with his success as a coach, he has received countless honors, among them induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, United States Olympic Committee National Coach of the Year award and the ITF Lifetime Achievement Award. Bollettieri is widely considered to be one of the most influential people in the sport’s history.

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