Return the Hit

By April 28, 2021Uncategorized

The following is a Linkedin Message from Arthur Jago; former Rock Bridge H S tennis player
Assistant Professor at the University of Washington – Tacoma (4/25/21)

Arthur started out at the bottom of the JV during his first year on the team. Then he worked his way up to playing varsity. He was an example of what hard work can do for you and how having the proper mindset makes a difference. He explains below:

Coach – congratulations on your induction (National High School Tennis Coaches Association)! It is a huge honor, and incredibly well-deserved. I wanted to message you to share with you how a bit of advice you once gave to the team has been really invaluable to me so far in my professional career as a researcher. While I forget exactly how you phrased it, it was something along the lines of “You should hope that the other guy hits the ball back to you”. I remember when I first started playing for the varsity lineup, in high pressure situations, it was very easy for me to (metaphorically) cross my fingers and play in a fashion where I was just “hoping” my opponent would mess up and make unforced errors, which obviously did not leave me very well-prepared for opponents who didn’t!

Your discussion with the team on this mindset at the end of one practice really encouraged me to adopt it in high-pressure situations, which I think benefitted me in those matches. Fast-forward, in graduate school, I had to do a number of important presentations for professors in my department (e.g. thesis proposals and defenses). Success in these was definitely not guaranteed, and if a student fails, they can get removed from the program. As a result, as I prepared for these talks, it was very easy to for me to hope I’d get “softballs” and be let off easy without having to get into the tough questions.

I remember laughing to myself as I recognized the similarity between these two situations; I shouldn’t be hoping for the easy questions, I should be hoping for the hard ones to really prove myself and earn it! To this day, when I give major research presentations or send articles to journals, I try to remember to tell myself to hope reviewers “return the hit”, as this not only gives me more practice with the process, but also makes “wins” that much more fulfilling.

Anyway, I wanted to share this story with you to let you know how this team discussion you led (which, if I remember correctly, was actually a short and extemporaneous one!) after practice one day has really stuck with me.


Give an example in your life, on or off a field of play (e.g. tennis court), where you need to welcome the challenge, not look for the easy way out, and “return the hit”.