Athlete-students

Toby Mohr

More stories from Toby Mohr

Dual Champions
February 22, 2024
Athlete-students

Photo by Marisa Valdez

You don’t need to be the best competitor to have fun playing your sport.

Sports are meant to be a fun way to entertain ourselves, have fun and get some exercise. But when we play for the sake of competition, for beating our opponent, we lose focus on what sports are all about — ourselves.

I recently rekindled my love for a sport after high school competitiveness soured it for me.

I started playing tennis in my freshman year of high school. My school had a very small, and not very successful, tennis team. But I thought the sport looked fun and a couple of my friends were already on the team, so I might as well give it a try.

I learned the basics; forehand and backhand groundstrokes, how to play at the net and how to serve the ball to go inbounds some of the time. I started to get better at it as the season went on and as I got more comfortable with the basics, I had more fun playing.

In my sophomore year I joined the team again and this time I was excited. I was playing varsity and I was getting good enough to hold my own in singles. 

I jumped back and forth between the third and fourth singles spots. I won a few matches and I lost a lot more. But I improved a lot. I was able to play competitively and enjoy every match I played. 

After that season I decided to take it seriously. I started practicing every morning that summer and I played in weekly tournaments. I wanted to keep getting better and be the best player on the team.

Even when my junior season was canceled in the spring of 2020, I kept practicing so I would be ready to compete again. 

When my senior season finally came around, I was ready. I earned the No. 1 singles spot on the team and was named a team captain.

I had worked my way up to the top of the team and I was ready to compete with the best — or so I thought. 

I lost every match.

I competed against the best players for the other teams, schools with far better tennis teams than ours, and I lost every match.

I was in over my head. And I was losing my enjoyment of the game.

After the season was over, I played a little bit during the summer but I found it difficult to enjoy. The season had left a bitter taste in my mouth. Even when playing without any pressure, I couldn’t stop thinking about my disappointment and frustration with my lackluster senior season.

This summer I was able to rediscover my love for tennis by trying something I hadn’t done in years — I played for fun. 

It was like a breath of fresh air to feel free from toxic competition and enjoy the sport again. 

I didn’t need to compare myself to anyone else and I could just focus on myself. 

That’s what sports are supposed to do. They’re not supposed to compare us to others, as easy as that can be with scoreboards and rankings. Sports are supposed to let us focus on our bodies and our minds, look at our improvement and feel free.

So go lace up your shoes, grab your racket, your bat, your glove or whatever else you need and go play.

Whatever sport it is, play it for fun.

Mohr can be reached at [email protected].