Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Big Words from Mishawaka Marian


Yesterday, during the school day, an 18 year old tennis player named Francis Tiafoe took the first two sets off of John Isner, the 20th ranked player in the world, at the US Open. I was watching bits of the match as I passed by my computer and then after the final bell rang I watch Tiafoe fall in the third set tiebreaker. But one thing that impressed me was how, as an 18 year old, Tiafoe kept playing with confidence in his strength (which was a rocketing forehand). Crafting points to take advantage of his strength ended up with a ton of highlights.

At lunch yesterday, I watched Taylor Townsend, a young American woman play against Caroline Wozniacki. She played really well, taking the former world no. 1 to three sets, but under pressure she relied on trick shots - drop shots and insane angles - to try to win points instead of playing to her normal, simple strength. The attempts ended in errors or set up winners for her opponent instead. The final set didn't contain a lot of highlights for Townsend, despite the crowds who filled the stadium to root for her.

And thus, a really easy formula appeared for playing points in pressure situations.
1. Play simply.
2. Play to your strength.

After watching all that tennis, I walked out to the courts to see how we'd do applying this "formula." As it turns out, we did it very well.

Following a somewhat frustrating week, Byeong looked like his old self today. He was controlled but swinging through shots, moving his opponent from side to side. At one point, the Marian player said out loud, "He keeps moving me side to side!" I was excited at that point because I knew Byeong was playing to his strengths. 

As did Lucas at #3S. He struck balls consistently and aggressively when he was in position. He pushed the ball deep and made his opponent do a lot of work. He played some of the best tennis that I've seen from him this season, and was able to come away with a victory.

At #2S, Jonathon Yousey fought hard. He played the longest singles match of the day, rivaling the third set at #1D in length. And yet, when it would come to deuce, when it would come to his ad, he didn't quite have the finishing shot. That's because I'm not sure that Jonathon knows what his strength is yet, and so he had difficulty playing to it. Which is why we get to practice :-)

The best varsity examples of playing simple and playing to your strength though, came from the doubles matches. There is a tendency in doubles to try to play hero shots. Its a more aggressive game in general than singles, because of taking the net and the number of putaways that happen. But when we are playing are best we are active with our feet, preparing early for shots, making the easy ball, attacking the net and volleying through the middle.

In our worst moments we didn't do this. At #2D, in the first set, Dustin and Lane saw far too many errors happen because they stood a foot in front of the service line rather than at the net. But in the second set, they began to drill the ball in and attack that net. Dustin has strong groundstrokes, and when he combines those groundstrokes with quick feet, preparation and smart placement, he came dominate from the baseline. In the first set he stood flat footed and then tried to go for big shots. In the second and third he moved in and thought about placement. Lane covered the center of the net and the backhand returns. And in playing to some of their strengths, the whole tide of the match turned. They won a relatively easy second set 6-1 and continued on to the second, getting a 5-1 lead before cruising to the 6-3 final.

At #1D, the story was mostly the same. Simon and Brandon faced a great test in this match, their opponents had both big serves and solid groundstrokes, especially forehands. Early in the match and in the second set, the Bruins wanted to play to their strengths and show that we could do it better and harder. But in the decisive third set, we settled down and became smart about placement and aggressive in our net play. Simple doubles really. As we relaxed, we played even better and were able to pull out the set.

All through the JV, the story was much the same. Daniel played his driven groundstrokes and was able to pull away with the victory, Jackson took advantage of his forehand, Liam had to overcome some early laziness - but then committed to moving and not letting any easy points go by. Joel improved his court positioning and took good tempered swings from the baseline. Caleb and Jacob took advantage of their groundstrokes to make passing shots. Philip used depth to push Nathan around. Nathan used a great and simple rhythm to be more consistent. Braydon hit great serves and forehands. Jonah attempted to get to the net as often as possible. Chris and Tommy ramped up great groundstrokes struck at the feet. Angel tried to play as close to the net as he could. And more and more example from each match.

But these are our strengths. And we build around these. Each match, let us get joy from playing to our strength. 

Because ultimately, that's what the Christian life is about too. Our strength as Christian isn't ourselves and what we can do, it's Jesus and what he has done. When we are pointing to that strength, that is when the most gets accomplished. That's when we are "winning." Under pressure in life, we have to keep it simple: pray and point to Jesus' strength and love. Just like our strengths in tennis strokes are trustworthy, so is our God. 

It was awesome to watch so many play to your strength tonight. Pray to your Strength, Jesus, today as well. 

#1S - Byeong Min Lim - 6-1, 6-2 - Cam Rafinski (11)
#2S - Jonathon Yousey - 2-6, 0-6 - Evan Kovatch (12)
#3S - Lucas Brownsberger-Keyes - 6-1, 6-1 - Josh Bussan (10)
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 - Michael Gray (11)/Dominik Rafinski (11)
#2D - Lane Miller/Dustin Miller - 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 - Michael Deranek (12)/Kenny Klimek (12)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Daniel Robles - 6-1 - Dustin Greer (9)
#2SJV - Jackson King - 6-1 - Aaron Jackson (11)
#3SJV - Liam Bradford - 7-5 - Caleb Suarez (10)
#4SJV - Joel Yoder - 6-3 - Aaron Jackson (11)
#1D Exhibition - Caleb Shenk/Jacob Woolace - 6-3

Bethany v. Bethany Matches
Nathan Oostland - 7-6 (4) - Philip Krabill
Braydon Harshberger - 6-5 - Jonah Farran
Tommy Nguyen/Chris Craw - 6-1 - Liam Bradford/Angel Torres

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